Steel Dynamics Inc's quarterly profit lagged market estimates for the third time in a row on lower volumes and pricing, but the company sees higher volumes at its steel and metals recycling sectors in 2011 as the U.S. economy improves.

Last week, ratings agency S&P had said the outlook for the global steel sector is stable, as the worst is behind.

Fifth-largest U.S. steelmaker Steel Dynamics sees energy, automotive and transportation to increase steel consumption in 2011, but expects soft to very moderate near-term demand growth in residential and non-residential construction -- one of the largest consumers of steel.

Sales at the company's steel manufacturing segment, which contributed about 60 percent to fourth-quarter revenue, fell by a quarter to $979 million, sequentially.

We anticipate substantially improved first quarter for all our segments compared to fourth quarter results, the company said.

Global production rose 15 percent in 2010 spurred by Asia and other developing countries, while the output in Western economies lagged behind 2008 levels as growth remained fragile.

The company's fourth-quarter external selling price for steel operations fell $29 per ton sequentially to $753.

In October, Chief Executive Keith Busse described the steel market as sloppy with prices still depressed, but said fourth-quarter results could be better than the third because of margin improvements.

October-December earnings were 7 cents a share, excluding items. Revenue rose 30 percent to $1.52 billion.

Fort Wayne, Indiana-based Steel Dynamics shares were trading up 1 percent in pre-market, having closed at $17.72 on Friday on Nasdaq.

The shares have gained about 10 percent in value since the company said in October that it sees industry improving slightly. (Reporting by Vaishnavi Bala in Bangalore; Editing by Anne Pallivathuckal, Maju Samuel)