The stock of Mining company, Cliffs Natural Resources (CLF) took a beating (of about 10% in the day following the earnings report) despite beating analysts' earnings estimates and offering very upbeat outlook on demand for its main product, iron ore and metallurgical coal.
Revenue in the first quarter rose to $727.7 million from $464.8 million a year ago while net earnings were $93.5 million, or 69 cents per share, compared with a loss of $7.4 million, or 7 cents per share, in the same quarter of 2009.
Iron ore pellet sales volume rose 116 percent to 4.4 million tons due to the boost to more demand as the North American steel industry has increased capacity utilization to between 70 percent and 75 percent in recent months. Iron ore price per ton rose 24 percent to $94.97
As a result of the recovery in steel industry, metallurgical coal sales volume rose to 662,000 tons from 494,000 tons, with average revenue per ton at $104.38, up from $95.34 a year earlier.
The management expected strong demand to continue in 2010 and it increased its sales volume estimate to about 27 million tons in North American iron ore, from 25 million tons.
In its North American coal business, Cliffs said it is maintaining its sales and production volume expectations of about 3.4 million tons in 2010
Very good report card. So, what gives?
First, it has to be the broader market. The Dow had 2 triple digits down days in 3 days which was quite rare since the market rally started in February this year. The civil and potential criminal probe of Goldman Sachs together with sovereign debt fear in Europe spooked investors.
Second, what I would think is more relevant is new measures to crack down on real estates in China. If Chinese government is determined to slow down its economy, the biggest engine of global growth since the financial meltdown, the renewed recovery in demand for basic materials may die prematurely.
Chinese government is not as determined to cool down on its economy as it appears. International Monetary Fund, IMF, is still expecting China to grow 10% in 2010 and 9.9% in 2011. In addition, global economy, especially the US is recovering, albeit at a moderate space, thus contributing to upcoming demand for basic materials. Steel industry, for example, has increased its utilization significantly from last year to 70-75% year to date. With the auto industry recovering quickly this year and housing market slowly stabilizing and strengthening, steel industry is expected to strengthen further, adding to the demand for iron ore and metallurgical coal.
CLF stands to take advantage of this recovery. Once the stock price finds its footing, it offers a good buy.
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Disclosure: The blog author does not own any position of CLF in her portfolio as of May 2, 2010