October 3, 2008 / 4:43 PM / 10 years ago

UPDATE 1-RESEARCH ALERT-Merrill downgrades 3 metal companies

(Recasts; adds details, share movement)

Oct 3 (Reuters) - Merrill Lynch downgraded Nucor Corp (NUE.N), Steel Dynamics Inc (STLD.O) and Century Aluminum Co (CENX.O), and said metals and mining equities have been hit hard over the past months as worries over the credit market and the global economy weigh on the sector.

While the downgrade of steel makers Nucor and Steel Dynamics was due to uncertainty in the macroeconomic environment, Century Aluminum’s downgrade was based on weak aluminum pricing, high inventories and lack of catalysts to drive the aluminum price higher.

“We do expect aluminum prices to rebound next year, but with the Chinese not cutting production as much as originally signaled, we believe the aluminum price will trade around its marginal cost,” analyst David Lipschitz wrote in a note to clients.

Shares of Century Aluminum fell to a three-year low of $22.34 Friday on Nasdaq.

Steel Dynamics shares fell to a two-year low of $12.76 Friday morning on Nasdaq.

But shares of Nucor were trading up almost 8 percent at $37.00 Friday afternoon on the New York Stock Exchange.

Following are the ratings and price target changes made by Merrill Lynch on the companies:

Company Rating Price target

New Old New Old

Nucor Corp Neutral Buy $41 $82

Steel Dynamics Underperform Buy $17 $45

Century Aluminum Underperform Buy $27 — (Reporting by Antonita Madonna Devotta in Bangalore; Editing by Pratish Narayanan)

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