Australia's BlueScope Steel raises half-year earnings forecast

Dec 21 (Reuters) – Australia's BlueScope Steel Ltd raised its earnings forecast on Thursday for the half year ending Dec. 31 by 9.5 percent, helped by higher steel prices and volumes in Australia.

The steel maker said it expects higher earnings before interest and tax at A$460 million ($352.45 million), compared with earlier forecast of A$420 million.

BlueScope also said it expects earnings in the U.S. to improve due to the recently passed U.S. tax law.

The tax overhaul cut the U.S. corporate tax rate to 21 percent from 35 percent, which U.S. President Donald Trump termed at an earlier Cabinet meeting "probably the biggest factor in this plan."

However, the firm, which operates in the United States through North Star BlueScope, BlueScope Buildings North America and Steelscape, said it expects its U.S. businesses to perform according to prior expectations.

It added that it was too early to provide a forecast for the second half of FY2018.

($1 = 1.3051 Australian dollars)

(Reporting by Aaron Saldanha, editing by Larry King)