Several steel companies are attractive at the moment with their stocks largely outperforming the broader market over the last few years. Notably, many basic materials sector stocks including these top-rated steel producers may be able to offer defensive protection to investors' portfolios if inflation reaccelerates. Commercial Metals ( CMC Quick Quote CMC - Free Report) One company that took advantage of rising inflation rendering higher steel prices over the last few years is Commercial Metals. Shares of CMC are up a modest +8% in 2023 but have now climbed +75% over the last two years to largely outperform the S&P 500’s -1% and the Nasdaq’s -7%. Image Source: Zacks Investment Research Furthermore, Commercial Metals' annual earnings remain well above historic levels even with a dip naturally expected after a record year that saw EPS at $8.19 in 2022. The recent expansion is very impressive for a steel and metals producer who has been in business for over a hundred years. Fiscal 2023 earnings are now expected at $7.56 per share which would still represent 263% growth over the last five years with 2019 pre-pandemic EPS at $2.08 a share. Earnings are expected to remain well above pre-pandemic levels next year as well with FY24 EPS projected at $6.60 per share. Image Source: Zacks Investment Research Most convincing is that Commercial Metals stock trades at 7.8X forward earnings which is roughly on par with the Zacks Steel-Producers industry average and a steep discount to the S&P 500’s 20.8X. In addition to CMC shares trading at an attractive forward earnings multiple, FY24 EPS estimates have soared 14% over the last 30 days. This largely attributes to Commercial Metals stock sporting a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) and an overall “A” VGM Style Scores grade for the combination of Value, Growth, and Momentum. Image Source: Zacks Investment Research L.B. Foster ( FSTR Quick Quote FSTR - Free Report) Sporting a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy) L.B. Foster’s stock is starting to stand out as the company's growth and post-pandemic recovery gains steam. L.B. Foster has a niche in the steel industry as a provider of rail and trackwork, piling, highway products, and tubular products. Total sales are forecasted to jump 9% in FY23 and rise another 6% in FY24 to $577.21 million. Image Source: Zacks Investment Research Annual earnings are projected to climb from an adjusted loss of -$4.25 a share last year to $0.53 per share in FY23. Even better, FY24 earnings are expected to skyrocket another 117% at $1.15 a share. More importantly, FY24 earnings estimates are up 9% over the last 60 days as L.B. Foster's bottom line edges closer to pre-pandemic levels and 2019 EPS of $1.62 a share. Plus, L.B. Foster's stock has soared +88% YTD and is now up +20% over the last two years to outpace the broader indexes. Image Source: Zacks Investment Research POSCO ( PKX Quick Quote PKX - Free Report) Among foreign steel producers, Korea-based Posco Holdings is intriguing as a manufacturer of hot and cold rolled steel products, heavy plate, and other steel products for the construction and shipbuilding industries. At the moment Posco’s stock lands a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy) as the trend of rising earnings estimate revisions is very compelling. Over the last two months, FY23 and FY24 earnings estimates have soared 13% and 18% respectively. Posco’s annual earnings are now expected to dip -3% this year but rebound and climb 44% in FY24 at $12.66 per share. Image Source: Zacks Investment Research This is a strong indication that Posco’s stellar stock performance could continue with shares of PKX soaring +108% in 2023. Furthermore, Posco’s stock is now up +56% over the last two years. Image Source: Zacks Investment Research Bottom Line It's hard to overlook the stellar performances of these steel producer's stocks over the last few years. With inflationary pressures still a concern to the broader global economy, Commercial Metals, L.B. Foster, and Posco stock remain attractive as they have the ability to benefit from higher steel prices.