As global in scope as the steel industry has become, the fate of each operator remains meaningfully tied to the prevailing business conditions in its host country.
Whether one looks to the impacts of China's inflation-taming efforts upon steelmakers like Baosteel Group, or the fascinating dance between POSCO's
Among relatively smaller operators with even greater reliance on domestic buyers, their utility as bellwethers -- or harbingers of developing conditions for a wide array of business interests -- grows stronger still. With that in mind, it is with great interest that I note Steel Dynamics'
Less than three months ago, I lamented the "anemic" profit of just $8 million that resulted from a tough margin squeeze, and from ramp-up issues at the company's new Mesabi iron nugget facility. With first-quarter earnings exploding to $106 million, and overall steel shipments growing 10% sequentially, this is the sort of performance that becomes strongly suggestive of resurgent underlying strength within the American industrial machine. Given an 18% increase in average realized prices over the quarter, buyers of Steel Dynamics' products collectively exhibited some noteworthy capacity to sustain their demand in the face of persistent cost-push inflationary forces.
POSCO just announced a comparable 16% to 18% price increase of its own, and time will tell whether shipbuilders and other major South Korean buyers will absorb the increase as cleanly. Shippers are already feeling the heat from persistently depressed charter rates, and operator Genco Shipping & Trading
Back on the domestic front, we also need to confirm Steel Dynamics' results with similarly improved earnings from a range of steelmakers (set to report in the coming days and weeks) before overreaching with macroeconomic interpretations. Commercial Metals
Fool contributor Christopher Barker can be found blogging actively and acting Foolishly within the CAPS community under the username TMFSinchiruna. He owns no shares in the companies mentioned. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.