Japan's JFE Holdings <5411.T>, the world's fifth-largest steelmaker, returned to a profit on Tuesday and U.S. Steel posted a narrower loss, but both gave lackluster forecasts, with the Americans complaining of slower order rates.

U.S. Steel's results missed Wall Street expectations and its stock fell 5.7 percent to $46.11 on the New York Stock Exchange. JFE stock fell 3.14 percent at the close in Tokyo.

A smaller U.S. steelmaker, AK Steel beat estimates to report a second-quarter profit on Tuesday and said it expects third-quarter shipments to rise by 3 percent over the second quarter. Its stock was down 3.3 percent at $14.70.

Although U.S. Steel forecast an overall operating profit in the third quarter, it said it was currently seeing slower order rates, especially in its flat-rolled steel business.

Earlier, Japan's JFE reported earnings for its fiscal first quarter were sharply down from on the previous quarter, hit by a delay in pushing through price increases, and the steelmaker gave only a cautious full-year outlook below consensus.

What matters is their guidance for the third quarter, and that is down significantly, said analyst Michelle Applebaum, of Steel Market Intelligence.

She said Wall Street expectations for the steel industry appeared to be too high and that analysts had not reacted to steel prices dropping in May.

U.S. Steel, which has now reported six consecutive quarterly losses, had said in April that it was seeing signs of economic recovery and it was increasing production. But on Tuesday it gave a gloomier outlook.

Operating results are expected to be below the second quarter largely due to a decrease in shipping and production volumes for our flat-rolled segment, reflecting slower order rates, said Chairman and Chief Executive Officer John Surma.

He said carbon flat-rolled inventory levels at North American service center customers remain below historical averages and end-user demand appears stable.

Similar market conditions prevail for our European operations.

Surma said U.S. Steel expects to report an overall operating profit in the third quarter as the U.S. and European economies continue to work their way through a gradual and uneven recovery process.

U.S. Steel said its net loss shrank to $25 million, or 17 cents per share, compared with a loss of $392 million, or $2.92 per share in the year ago quarter.

Excluding a currency remeasurement of intercompany loans, earnings per share, earnings per share were 45 cents, falling short of 63 cents per share that analysts had on average expected, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

JFE, which also announced it will spend about $1 billion for a 14.9 percent stake in India's JSW Steel Ltd , said April-June recurring profit -- before tax and one-offs -- was 51.4 billion yen ($591 million). That was a turnaround from a 67.3 billion yen loss a year ago, but about 30 percent below the previous quarter's profit.

JFE predicted a profit of 220 billion yen for the full year to March 2011, well below a consensus of 310.5 billion yen in a poll of 18 analysts by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Japanese steelmakers only applied the higher contract prices they agreed with domestic carmakers and other customers for part of the first quarter, while having to pay higher raw materials costs for the full April-June period.

(Reporting by Matt Daily and Steve James in New York and Yuko Inoue in Tokyo, editing by Dave Zimmerman)