Although Nucor (NUE) hasn't snapped back as fast as other steel stocks, some pros have been snapping it up. Nucor has languished near its low of 57, down from 72 in June. They think Nucor, one of the largest U.S. steelmakers--with annual sales of about $3 billion--is now the industry's best bargain. One South Carolina money manager expects the company to top the Street's earnings projections this year and next, thanks to its rapid capacity expansion.

Other analysts think it will, too. "Nucor has the best growth prospects in the steel group, with projected 17% five-year compounded unit volume growth," says Wayne Atwell, an analyst at Morgan Stanley. Based on his projected 1996 earnings of $4.15 a share, Atwell figures Nucor could trade at 65 within a year. It is likely to remain the U.S. leader, he says, in flat-rolled steel.

Nucor operates scrap-based steel mills in seven locations. One big plus is the startup this year of a new iron-carbide plant in Trinidad. "This is a significant long-term positive," says analyst Gregg Lucas of Interstate/Johnson Lane. Iron-carbide production will insulate Nucor from volatile scrap prices and improve the quality of Nucor's flat-rolled steel, says Lucas, who upgraded his Nucor rating to a "buy."

Nucor Chairman and CEO Ken Iverson says he plans "to double the capacity of certain mills" and that production will jump to 8 million tons this year from about 7 million last year. "Orders are running strong," he says.

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