It's official: The fires of American industry are beginning to burn once again!
When steelmakers first showed signs of improving market conditions toward the end of 2009, straight-talking Fools, including Nucor
As we trudge deeper into 2010, weakness in domestic construction markets continues to weigh on this bellwether sector, but the latest earnings results from a pair of domestic metalsmiths show that production increases in other segments of the market are nothing to shake a steel-clad stick at.
Noting uncertainty regarding future cost inputs now that iron ore producers BHP Billiton
With the company's flat roll segment now operating at full capacity, steel shipments surged a remarkable 20% sequentially from the fourth quarter of 2009. Rather than sweating the price wars ongoing in the iron ore market, this scrapping specialist seeks to attain iron "self-sufficiency" as early as 2011 through a pair of initiatives to produce pig iron and iron nuggets. Steel Dynamics also reported weak structural steel demand from persistent ills in nonresidential construction, but it sees demand for rail products continuing to improve throughout the year.
These improving indicators have been corroborated recently by major industrials in sectors like coal and railroads. Arch Coal
Whether a major portion of this demand is of a synthetic sort -- fabricated through government stimulus spending or simple inventory restocking -- remains to be seen. For now, let's just take pleasure in observing that capacity utilization is on the rise, and also in the welcome implication that some previously laid-off mill workers may now be returning to work. I still don't know where this road leads, nor for how long it may wind through Rocky Mountain-esque peaks and valleys, but at least from this height we can see the next few miles of a prospective road to recovery.
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