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U.S. Steel made $387 million last year

U.S. Steel Gary Works.

U.S. Steel turned just its second annual profit in the last eight years in 2017, bringing in net earnings of $387 million as a result of higher steel prices and better market conditions.

The Pittsburgh-based steelmaker, one of Northwest Indiana's largest employers, swung to an annual profit after losing $440 million in 2016. U.S. Steel earned $2.19 per share in profit on a cash flow of $802 million for the year, and earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization of $1.087 billion.

In the fourth quarter, the operator of Gary Works, East Chicago Tin and the Midwest Plant in Portage made $159 million, or $0.90 per share, up from a loss of $105 million during the same period in 2016.

"We finished the year with three solid quarters as investments in our assets helped to provide more stable operating performance, and results for all three of our reportable segments were in line with our expectations," President and CEO David Burritt said. "We made good progress on our asset revitalization program in 2017, achieved the quality and reliability improvements we committed to for 2017, and are confident that we will achieve our 2018 improvement objectives."

U.S. Steel now has $3.35 billion in total liquidity, including $1.55 billion in cash.

"We continued to strengthen our balance sheet, with net debt decreasing by over $300 million in 2017 to approximately $1.15 billion," Burritt said. "Our total liquidity increased by over $400 million in 2017 and ended the year at approximately $3.35 billion. The improving strength of our balance sheet and total liquidity supports the continued implementation of our asset revitalization program in our Flat-Rolled segment, as well as increasing investment in our Tubular and European businesses."

U.S. Steel's flat-rolled department, which includes its Northwest Indiana operations, made $380 million for the year, including $90 million in the fourth quarter. That compares to an annual loss of $3 million for the segment in 2016.

Flat-rolled shipments rose to 15.1 million tons for the year, up from 14.9 million tons in 2016. The average price of a flat-rolled coil of steel rose to $726 per ton last year, up from $666 per ton the previous year.

U.S. Steel expects to make $1.5 billion next year if market conditions persist.

"Our focus in 2018 remains on improving the fundamental drivers of our business: safety, quality, delivery and cost and we expect the performance momentum from 2017 to continue," Burritt said. "We will continue to provide our employees with the support and resources they need to succeed. When our employees succeed, our customers succeed. When our customers succeed, U. S. Steel succeeds."

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Business reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.