The economy is our real driver, not tariffs

Investors “have to look at the overall economy” and not focus so much on President Donald Trump’s tariffs on steel imports when considering whether to invest in Nucor, the country’s largest steel producer, its CEO told CNBC on Tuesday.

“We hear a lot of talk about the tariffs and, certainly, the tariffs are playing a role in the performance that the steel industry, and Nucor in particular, is having this year,” John Ferriola, the steelmaker’s chairman and CEO, told Jim Cramer. “But the real driver for the performance of the industry and Nucor is the economy, and the economy remains strong.”

The fate of U.S. steelmakers has been in question since the president’s tariffs came into effect, as some raised concerns that they could raise the price of steel globally to unsustainable levels.

In October, Cramer himself expressed concern that the tariffs were “hurting” the steel industry, citing Nucor’s third-quarter earnings announcement in which the company forecast lower earnings for the fourth quarter.

But if you ask Ferriola, a strong economy, higher demand and stable end markets far overshadow the tariffs’ effects on his company’s business.

“[The economy is] being driven by the tax reform, by deregulation, by a very strong energy market, and all of these things are factoring into the fact that demand is good,” he said in an exclusive “Mad Money” interview. “The economy drives demand in steel. When you look at our demand in the industry this year, it’s up about 2 percent year over year.”

“We’re on pace, Jim, to have our best year in history,” the CEO added, noting that 23 of Nucor’s 24 end markets “are either stable or increasing” heading into the fourth quarter and the first half of 2019.

Ferriola also said Nucor’s shareholders shouldn’t worry about a potential Democratic sweep as a result of Tuesday’s midterm elections.

“At the end of the day, Jim, the economy drives steel demand, steel demand drives steel pricing, and we see the economy remaining strong,” he told Cramer. “So unless there’s a major change in tax policy, a major change in deregulation and we see a sudden and unexpected drop in oil, I think it’s going to remain strong.”

Shares of Nucor ended Tuesday’s trading session 1.74 percent higher, at $62.43. In October, the company reported that profit tripled in the third quarter as higher demand and higher prices fueled sales growth.

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