CHARLOTTE, N.C., March 19, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Nucor Corporation (NYSE: NUE) today announced guidance for its first quarter ending April 4, 2020. Nucor expects first quarter earnings to be in the range of $0.95 to $1.00 per diluted share. This range is an increase compared to fourth quarter of 2019 earnings of $0.35 per diluted share and a decrease compared to first quarter of 2019 earnings of $1.63 per diluted share.
Included in the fourth quarter of 2019 earnings were non-cash impairment charges of $66.9 million, or $0.17 per diluted share. Included in the first quarter of 2019 results was a benefit of $33.7 million, or $0.08 per diluted share, related to the gain on the sale of an equity method investment in the raw materials segment.
We expect earnings in the steel mills segment to increase in the first quarter of 2020 as compared to the fourth quarter of 2019 (excluding the fourth quarter of 2019 impairment charge), due to increased average selling prices, primarily at our sheet, bar and plate mills, and expected higher volumes. We expect the profitability of the steel products segment in the first quarter of 2020 to decrease as compared to the fourth quarter of 2019 (excluding the fourth quarter of 2019 impairment charges) due to normal seasonality. We expect the performance of the raw materials segment to increase in the first quarter of 2020 as compared to the fourth quarter of 2019, due to an improvement in pricing for raw materials, the absence of the impairment charge related to our proved producing natural gas well assets and improved performance at our DRI facilities.
Order rates, backlogs and utilization rates at our steel mills have remained strong well into March, which reflects strong underlying demand in nonresidential construction and other end-use markets.
Thus far the impacts of COVID-19 on our supply chains and operations has been minimal. However, more severe impacts are probable as economic activity is disrupted by construction sites being shut down in some major cities and other business interruptions. It is too early to gauge how significant those impacts will be for the balance of the year. We are carefully monitoring this evolving situation. Additionally, we are monitoring the recent volatility in the commodity and financial markets, and any potential future impacts on our operations and on those of our suppliers and customers.
The safety and well being of our team is our most important value and responsibility. We are actively engaged in evaluating and addressing risks and communicating with our team members throughout our enterprise. We believe Nucor is well positioned to navigate any future challenges that arise from these current situations given our advantaged cost position, flexible production capability and financial strength that includes consistently robust operating cash flow generation. These proven capabilities have served Nucor well throughout many economic cycles.
Nucor and its affiliates are manufacturers of steel and steel products, with operating facilities in the United States, Canada and Mexico. Products produced include: carbon and alloy steel -- in bars, beams, sheet and plate; hollow structural section tubing; electrical conduit; steel piling; steel joists and joist girders; steel deck; fabricated concrete reinforcing steel; cold finished steel; precision castings; steel fasteners; metal building systems; steel grating; and wire and wire mesh. Nucor, through The David J. Joseph Company, also brokers ferrous and nonferrous metals, pig iron and hot briquetted iron / DRI; supplies ferro-alloys; and processes ferrous and nonferrous scrap. Nucor is North America's largest recycler.
Certain statements contained in this news release are "forward-looking statements" that involve risks and uncertainties. The words "believe," "expect," "project," "will," "should," "could" and similar expressions are intended to identify those forward-looking statements. These forward-looking statements reflect the Company's best judgment based on current information, and although we base these statements on circumstances that we believe to be reasonable when made, there can be no assurance that future events will not affect the accuracy of such forward-looking information. As such, the forward-looking statements are not guarantees of future performance, and actual results may vary materially from the projected results and expectations discussed in this news release. Factors that might cause the Company's actual results to differ materially from those anticipated in forward-looking statements include, but are not limited to: (1) competitive pressure on sales and pricing, including pressure from imports and substitute materials; (2) United States and foreign trade policies affecting steel imports or exports; (3) the sensitivity of the results of our operations to prevailing steel prices and changes in the supply and cost of raw materials, including pig iron, iron ore and scrap steel; (4) market demand for steel products, which, in the case of many of our products, is driven by the level of nonresidential construction activity in the United States; and (5) energy costs and availability. These and other factors are discussed in Nucor's regulatory filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, including those in "Item 1A. Risk Factors" of Nucor's Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2019. The forward-looking statements contained in this news release speak only as of this date, and Nucor does not assume any obligation to update them, except as may be required by applicable law.
SOURCE Nucor Corporation