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Tom Balcerek

Tom Balcerek



Articles by Tom Balcerek

Trump breaking supply chain eggs to make trade deal omelets

October 5, 2018

Who knew trade deal bargaining chips were made of steel and aluminum? Apparently, US President Donald Trump did.
Earlier this week Trump triumphantly defended his 25% global tariff on steel and 10% tariff on aluminum as key drivers in achieving recent trade deals for the leverage they provided.
He took on opponents of his tariff strategy, calling them “babies” as many were fearful of starting trade wars, alienating longtime allies, wrecking well-established supply chains and raising costs for steel-using industries and consumers alike.
Trump said the tariffs have been so successful he may not have to impose any new ones going forward — simply threaten to impose them to reach new trade deals.
“Without tariffs, we wouldn’t be talking about a deal,” Trump said Monday while announcing the

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Steel or bourbon? Trump may need both

March 7, 2018

From the legendary Pittsburgh steelworker to the things he may own — blue jeans, bourbon and Harley-Davidson motorcycles — President Donald Trump’s trade policy and the reaction to it have been both ironic and iconic.
Steel was the arrow point of Trump’s America First campaign for president. He said he cared more about Pittsburgh than Paris, although as a globe-trotting businessman he may have spent much more time in the latter than the former.
But the focus on steel and the Steel City worked, just as the Pittsburgh Steelers football team works as a hard-nosed perennial championship contender and a prosperous brand, even though steel has largely moved on from the city.
Pittsburgh now prides itself on “eds and meds” (education and medicine) — its largest employers — and, increasingly,

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Trump trade rift report adds a chapter to steel import saga

January 26, 2018

US market players anxiously awaiting President Donald Trump’s decision on whether or not to restrain steel imports got something else instead: the report of a rift between Trump and Wilbur Ross, secretary of the US Department of Commerce, which launched the import investigation last year.
Online news organization Axios reported early this week that Ross had fallen out of favor with Trump and that US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer has taken over as chief trade negotiator.
Ross, a former steel executive who initiated the Section 232 steel import investigation, was said in the article to have been harshly criticized by the president and told he was no longer trusted to negotiate trade deals. The report also stated that Ross negotiated a steel trade deal with China that was rejected by

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Will Trump punt in US Section 232 steel investigation?

November 9, 2017

Football season is in full swing in America, and it looks like political football season is about to kick off for American steelmakers.
The football getting kicked around and passed back and forth, is President Donald Trump’s virtual promise to protect domestic steelmakers by sacking unfairly traded imports.
So far that “promise” has caused some blindside hits on American steelmakers, as imports rallied after the Trump administration’s April announcement that it would consider restricting imports on the basis of national defense via a Section 232 investigation. US buyers rushed their import purchases, executing an end-around play to beat any future unavailability and the likelihood of rising domestic prices.
Imports are up 20% so far this year. Meanwhile, Commerce has yet to break huddle

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US steel market winds blowing in a new direction

September 13, 2017

The political winds in favor of the US steel industry may be dying down, but the winds of two recent hurricanes — Harvey and Irma — may give the industry a boost.
“Sadly, the hurricanes might be what saves the steel market in the second half of 2017,” said one American steel distributor. He reasoned that good old supply and demand may provide what politics has not.
Talk of the hurricanes’ impact has temporarily replaced the possibility of massive tariffs and/or quotas on steel imports as the market wildcard.
In late July, President Trump said a decision on the ongoing Section 232 investigation into imports threatening national security would likely have to wait until after “health care and taxes and maybe even infrastructure” are addressed.
All three of those issues are profoundly

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Latest US trade restriction beef pits farmers against steelworkers

July 14, 2017

It was one of 18 American agricultural associations that came out against President Donald Trump’s initiative to protect the domestic steel and aluminum industries under the US’ Section 232 national defense provision on trade.
The July 11 letter to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross expressed extreme concern that application of the 1962 law “could be disastrous for the global trading system” and for US agriculture in particular.
“US agriculture is highly dependent on exports, which means it is particularly vulnerable to retaliation,” the letter states. “Many countries that export steel to the United States are also large importers of US agriculture products. The potential for retaliation from these trading partners is very real.”
Put another way, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association sees

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The waiting is the hardest part for US steel markets

June 29, 2017

The American steel industry is desperately in need of relief, but it’s not what you think.
We have heard a lot about the possibility of import restrictions stemming from the government’s ongoing Section 232 investigation — that is the big issue. But the smaller, more pressing matter right now is the announcement of that relief, or lack thereof.
American steel markets are seemingly at a standstill because Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has suggested on several occasions that while his department has 270 days to make a 232 steel import recommendation to President Trump, it would come much earlier.
The investigation to determine whether steel imports are impacting America’s national security is less than 70 days old. But some thought a recommendation would come as early as last week. Now they

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US importers challenge the call for more steel trade restrictions

June 23, 2017

The American Institute for International Steel recently hosted a forum in Washington DC for those likely to be negatively impacted by steel import restrictions that could follow the government’s ongoing Section 232 investigation.
They included speakers representing US traders, ports and steel end-users who believe the outcome of the 232 case — aimed at limiting imports on national security grounds — could have negative economic consequences for the US and serve to ultimately weaken US security.
“Restricting trade in steel will not enhance our national security. In fact, the opposite is true,” AIIS President Richard Chriss said. “Restricting trade, particularly trade that disrupts commerce, adversely affects our key allies, and that is highly likely to lead to retaliation, which weakens our

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Steel announcements pick up as new US administration settles in

February 15, 2017

What some are describing as the Trump Factor appears to be emboldening US steel producers to embark on new capital projects.
Since the November 8 election of Donald Trump as US president, several mills have announced restarts of idled operations as well as major mill upgrades and expansions.
Trump’s steel-friendly administration is boosting confidence on both the supply and demand sides, the former via the likelihood of more or continued  import restrictions and the latter by way of a generally more optimistic market and the possibility of huge infrastructure and pipeline projects, not to mention The Wall.
US Steel, whose CEO Mario Longhi is among a group of business leaders selected to advise President Trump on increasing US manufacturing jobs, announced in mid-December it would restart the 3.6 million tons/year capacity hot-strip mill at its Granite City, Illinois works. USS is also reopening its Keetac iron ore mine in Minnesota and has earmarked an extra $200 million this year for asset revitalization in its sheet operations.

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Would Trump ever heed Marilyn’s siren song on steel?

December 20, 2016

Marilyn Monroe singing “Happy Birthday to You” to US President John F. Kennedy in 1962 is famous. What is little known is that her rendition was partly about the steel industry.
The mills had just announced a $6 a ton price increase, about 3.5%, despite a tacit agreement with Kennedy that there would be no such move. The Kennedy administration was worried about inflation and had just intervened to help the industry settle a no-wage-hike contract with the United Steelworkers union.
Kennedy maneuvered the industry into rescinding the price hike after harshly — and publicly — jawboning steelmakers for “a wholly unjustifiable and irresponsible defiance of the public interest.”
Whoa!
The full version of Marilyn’s song included these lines: “Thanks, Mr. President, for all the things you’ve done, the battles that you’ve won – the way you deal with US Steel and our problems by the ton. We thank you so much.”

It’s been a long time since American steel has had such a high profile as the intervening years saw the USA’s gradual move away from an industrial economy and towards a service economy. But in 1962, the price of steel had major economic implications.
President-elect Donald Trump suggested he was going to bring steel back to its heyday during his campaign stops in Pittsburgh. The plight of the steel industry played a role in the 2016 presidential debates.

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US infrastructure may soon have its Nixon-to-China triumph

November 18, 2016

For many it’s just another day in the Untied States of  America, but for the American steel industry things are looking great.
Steelmakers’ share prices surged in the wake of Republican Donald Trump’s election as US President last week, presumably on his commitment to put America first by fighting unfair trade deals and imports. He specifically vowed to “bring back steel.”
On top of that, his commitment to boosting infrastructure spending in a big way is sustaining the outlook for American steel. There would be a lot of steel needed for those new roads and bridges, locks and dams, airports and railways.
Here’s what Morgan Stanley had to say about it this week: “We conservatively estimate Trump’s $550 billion stimulus plan would increase steel demand by 20% annually for 5 years . . . We have analyzed how spending could affect steel use in highways, bridges, buildings (such as airports), rails, and other infrastructure projects.  We calculate an incremental  22 million tons of demand in each year the program is in effect.”
Yes, these were merely campaign promises, but big infrastructure spending is looking increasingly plausible in part because so many other issues continue to divide the country, which president-elect Trump said he wants to unite.

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Steel daggers fly once again at Clinton-Trump debate

October 20, 2016

The resilience of steel is well-known — even as a presidential debate zinger.
Hillary Clinton got two steely jabs in Wednesday night, once again chiding Donald Trump for running an America First campaign after constructing his buildings with Chinese steel and aluminum, the latter clearly riding steel’s ferrous coattails onto the national political stage.
Metals were the only commodities debated in the third and final campaign confrontation. There was no discussion of past political footballs like coal, oil, natural gas or even the price of gasoline.
It was the second debate in which the issue of Chinese steel was raised. Both times Trump brought a Clinton cudgel onto himself. In the October 8 debate, he opened himself up by bemoaning the damage done to the US steel industry and its employees by dumped Chinese steel. Clinton countered, decrying Trump’s use of said steel.
In Wednesday’s debate, Trump brought up the subject again, bemoaning the decline of American manufacturing. “Our product is pouring in from China, pouring in from Vietnam, pouring in from all over the world,” he said.
Clinton shot back: “He mentioned China. And, you know, one of the biggest problems we have with China is the illegal dumping of steel and aluminum into our markets. I have fought against that as a senator. I’ve stood up against it as secretary of state.

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American steel cameos in US presidential candidate debate

October 11, 2016

After Sunday night’s sad and nasty US presidential debate it’s hard to focus on the relatively small exchange the candidates had about American steel. It came towards the end of a brawl that one commentator likened to watching a cobra and a mongoose fighting in a small cage.
After a flood of attention-grabbing — and even crotch-grabbing — allegations, the candidates turned their attention to steel. Here’s the exchange:
“It’s killing our steel workers and our steel companies,” Donald Trump said about cheap Chinese steel imports.
Hillary Clinton: “China is illegally dumping steel in the United States and Donald Trump is buying it to build his buildings, putting American steelworkers and plants out of business.”
I half-expected Trump to lean into his microphone, cock his head and retort: “Because I’m smart” — the same thing he said about paying no taxes.
It might be instructive then to ponder Trump’s explanation on the tax issue, because of what it might mean for steel. Regarding his taxes, he explained that he was not doing anything illegal, merely using America’s tax laws to his benefit, as any smart businessman, or citizen, would do.
He has said that an appalled society can, via the Democratic process, end unfair tax breaks and loopholes.

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Steel leading the charge for trade wars

August 2, 2016

After the devastation of World War II, some said we would never again see such desperate fighting among major world powers given the existence of nuclear weapons. Instead, future wars amongst these big countries would be trade wars.
Are we on the cusp of such a conflagration? Doubtful, but with China now getting in on the trade case action, it’s worth keeping an eye on.
China, usually a defendant in unfair trade cases, recently put dumping duties of roughly 37-47% on imports of grain-oriented electrical sheet steel from Japan, South Korea and the European Union. Even more recently, Chinese iron miners said they are considering filing cases against imports or iron ore from Brazil and Australia, which their steel industry absolutely needs.
Crazy? Yes, but so is the phenomenon of The Donald, so who knows. Some believe China is motivated, at least in part, by the need to develop its trade case muscles.
Steel, essential to fighting conventional wars — US Steel’s massive Homestead Works was a major component of WWII’s Arsenal of Democracy — is now leading the charge in the trade realm. US mills filed a raft of unfair trade cases last year that are bearing fruit this year, helping to reduce imports by 29% through June, with China being a major target. US producers, as always, characterized the filings as a defensive action, and this time most of the world agreed.

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Chinese steelmaking quandary: nothing exceeds like excess

May 25, 2016

Is it “Look before you leap,” or “He who hesitates is lost”? Is it “Absence makes the heart grow fonder” or “Out of sight, out of mind”? Is it “A penny saved is a penny earned” or “You can’t take it with you?”
This is why wisdom is so hard to come by: there are different versions. Whether or not wisdom can apply to the Chinese steel overcapacity situation is an open question.
The word “intractable” keeps popping up in news stories about China’s 400 million tonnes of excess steelmaking capacity — China says it’s closer to 300 million — and its negative influence on the global steel market.
The recent OECD effort to win agreement by the world’s steelmakers on ways to reduce dangerously bloated global steelmaking capacity failed because of China’s reluctance to get on board.
With more than half the world’s 40% overcapacity in China, its lack of cooperation is problematic to say the least. Global steelmakers sans China released a statement saying as much and reiterating their view that governments must not subsidize or encourage excess steelmaking capacity and must facilitate the shutdowns of uncompetitive mills while providing a safety net for displaced steelworkers.
Seems logical, yet the problem appears intractable — there’s that word again — as China has refused to sign off on these principles. Now the subject is on the radar of this week’s G7 meeting in Japan.

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Barreling down the highway to hell, straight to Steel City

April 27, 2016

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump may be more likely to become the Prince of Promises than the President of the United States. But in the run-up to Tuesday’s Pennsylvania’s primary election he said something in the southwestern corner of the state that caught our attention. “Steel, we’re bringing it back,” he told Pittsburghers.
If he meant he was bringing the steel industry back to America, someone should tell him that the U-S-A is the fourth largest producer in the world, with output of nearly 80 million metric tons in 2015.
Trump probably meant he would bring steel back to Pittsburgh, the Steel City, home of the Steelers and Iron City Beer. He said he’s going to bring coal back to the region too.
Since steel and coal never really left the area we can assume he means Big Steel and King Coal. Not likely, say the experts, although who would ever accuse Trump of pandering?
Many native and lifelong residents of Pittsburgh, whose immigrant forebears came to the area to mine coal, make coke and work in the mills, were part of the cheering Trump campaign crowd, but even they have conceded that the area’s steelmaking prowess imploded more than 30 years ago and will never return.
Pittsburgh now gets props as rust belt royalty — the Renaissance City, The Paris of the Appalachians.

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Tackling the tracking of trade cases and what it says about the steel industry

April 11, 2016

When US steelmakers and other producers around the globe embarked on the long and tangled journey of unfair trade case litigation last year, we joked in this space that “You need a scorecard” to keep track of things. Now we have one.
Three Platts publications – Steel Markets Daily, World Steel Review and the Steel Price Report – are now carrying a homegrown chart of recent steel trade case actions from around the world. The list of dumping and subsidy allegations is impressive, or depressive, depending on which side of the trade fence you sit on.
The chart lists 72 global trade case developments or determinations of recent vintage, including 20 complaints from North America, mainly the US. Asia is next with 19, followed by the EU (9), Australia (9), South America (8), Africa (3), Turkey (3) and the Middle East (1).
Not surprisingly, 40 of the recent cases are against China, which itself has just one steel import complaint in the works – a dumping case against grain-oriented electrical sheet from the EU, South Korea and Japan. Provisional antidumping duties of roughly 15-46% have been levied, the chart informs us, pending final determinations.
By product, the most global steel trade complaints – 25 out of 72 – are against flat-rolled steel imports, mostly sheet steel. Pipe & tube is next at 15, followed by basic construction steels rebar and wire rod at 14 combined.

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The stars align to support US steelmakers

March 25, 2016

Real demand is still flat and US steelmakers appear to be facing a “perfect storm” — a good one, this time.
Whether it’s Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” or some kind of global steel zeitgeist, things are all of a sudden looking great for US mills, just in time for the seasonally strong second quarter.
One of the biggest boosts is coming from actions set in motion last year: unfair trade cases filed by domestic producers against sheet steel imports from 11 countries.
The US Commerce Department last week announced long-awaited preliminary dumping duties of 4-49% on imports of hot-rolled coil, the largest and most contentious market among steel products. This important determination came on the heels of the establishment of provisional duties of 2-266% on cold-rolled coil and 3-256% on hot-dip galvanized sheet, the other two major sheet steel products. Taken together they represent roughly half of all American steel shipments.
Subsidy-remedying countervailing duties were also established. These too are preliminary, but they are just as costly to importers who must make cash deposits in the amounts of the duties, pending final determinations.
Furthermore, some of the sheet duties, against the most allegedly egregious offenders, were made retroactive by 90 days.
The high ends of the duty ranges on CRC and HDG belong to Chinese exporters.

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There’s more spring in the step of the steel industry in March, but can it last?

March 3, 2016

Ardent observers of the steel trade press might have concluded the month of March came in like a lion after reading the top headlines of Tuesday’s Platts SBB Global Briefing.
Of the top five stories, four were pricing stories and all were positive, a noticeable change from many previous steel market headlines containing such phrases as “gloom” and “doom.”
The positive news for steel that launched March had an international flair: Asia rebar prices on the rise; US sheet prices going up $30/st; European rebar prices possibly at the bottom (nowhere to go but up!); China’s plate export prices on an upward trend.
There were 15 other pricing stories in the March 1 edition and 10 of those  — a full two-thirds — were about price increases, including a formal $30/st plate price hike announcement in the US.
What to make of this? There could be several reasons for the relatively cheery headlines snapshot, and maybe all of them have converged to usher in the final month of the first quarter:

Q1 is often the steel industry’s most optimistic — perhaps belatedly this year — prompting manufacturers, distributors and constructors to revive their steel purchasing.
Duties or anticipated duties from US and other countries’ unfair trade cases are starting to bite, creating floors from which prices can rise.

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Ask Hunker Harry: Good weather news is bad news for US steel

February 8, 2016

Punxsutawney Phil, the famous groundhog who predicts the longevity of the US winter each year, did  not see his shadow last week, indicating an early spring. This is only the 18th time in 130 years that the groundhog failed to see his shadow. An emcee at the Groundhog Day event in the chilly northwestern Pennsylvania town told those gathered it was OK to remove their coats.
What may be great news for wide swaths of America is likely bad news for the price of ferrous scrap.
Easy collection and a free flow of material unencumbered by freezing temperatures, ice and snow will likely keep scrap supply healthy and prices flat. In the kind of lackluster market US steelmakers have been facing, flat scrap prices mean flat steel prices, or worse.
None other than former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan recognized the importance of ferrous scrap as an economic indicator, keeping a close eye on the steel trade press for price movements in the major steelmaking raw material. If scrap prices were on the upswing that was an early signal that steel demand was strong and the economy was strengthening.
Whether it’s for Greenspan or from a groundhog, early market indicators can be golden.  That’s why steelmakers should get to know another conjecturing critter — Hunker Harry, a Norway rat.

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US steel wonders if interventions are enough to keep imports at bay

January 14, 2016

A couple decades or so ago, Bethlehem Steel, then the USA’s second largest steelmaker, introduced a team of trade attorneys as it was about to embark on another round of massive unfair trade case filings against steel imports.
It wasn’t unusual for mills to have trade case attorneys, either in-house or on retainer, but Bethlehem was making a statement: This is how we roll. International steel dumpers, we’re coming to get you.
It was as though Bethlehem was establishing a new division as it prepared to continuously cast trade litigation. Its efforts and those of other US mills were not wasted. Multiple unfair trade case filings against multiple countries covering multiple steel products overwhelmed the US government, leading to multi-year blanket protection programs like America’s 7.5-year Voluntary Restraint Agreements on global steel trade in the late 1980s and the Section 201 market safeguards of the early 2000s.
Today it’s different. US mills still file trade cases, sometimes massively, but it seems the days when the government would step in to enact comprehensive solutions are over. Even standard remedies such as the establishment of anti-dumping  (AD) and countervailing duties (CVD) against subsidized steel are not as robust as they used to be.

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Yes, Virginia, there is a turnaround for the steel sector

December 2, 2015

Once the US Thanksgiving holiday passes it is never too soon to summon the Christmas spirit. The American steel industry, suffering persistently low prices, high inventories and weak demand, could use a Christmas boost right about now. The following is reprinted from the late American Steel Review, based on the famous 1897 editorial reply “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.”

Yes, Virginia, there is a turnaround
Dear editor,
I am a young professional in the American steel industry and cannot believe the market will ever rebound. Some of my friends say there is no turnaround, but my papa, a long-time steel executive, says, “If you see it in The American Steel Review, it’s so.” Please tell me the truth, will there be a turnaround for the steel industry?
— Virginia O’Magarac
 
Virginia, your friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age and do not believe what they cannot see.
Yes, Virginia, there is a turnaround. It exists as certainly as money and conspicuous consumption and Hummers exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy.
Alas! How dreary would be the world if there were no turnaround! It would be as dreary as if there were no low-priced slabs from Russia. There would be no childlike recycling, no hot-rolling, no tension-leveling to make tolerable this existence.

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Recent news paints global picture of doom and gloom for steel

November 12, 2015

The steel industry doesn’t have much to cheer about these days. Some recent news items tell the tale:

Essar Steel Algoma, a Canadian flat steel producer, filed for creditor protection for the second time in 18 months.
Ferrous scrap prices fell again this month, erasing any hope that an end to the five-month swoon in the key steelmaking raw material would boost finished steel prices by extension. Scrap prices have declined about 40% since June and are roughly half the price they were at the beginning of the year.
In the UK, the steel downturn has reached crisis levels resulting in the closure of SSI’s Teesside slab mill, the announcement by Tata Steel that it will close plate mills in Scotland and Scunthorpe and the announcement that 16 Caparo group companies, including steel strip and tube makers, appointed administrators after suffering financial problems. The administrators have announced more than 450 job losses. To make matters worse, Caparo CEO Angad Paul was found dead Sunday after apparently falling from his eighth floor residence in central London.

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Turning away from blast furnaces still leaves problems for steel industry

October 20, 2015

It’s hard to say what was more surprising: that blast furnaces may no longer be needed for steel production or that Nucor has hippies.
Tim Worstall, a fellow at the Adam Smith Institute in London, says as much in a recent article in Forbes magazine. Sort of.
Writing about the bleak future of steel mills in England, Worstall posits that “the real underlying cause is that these are integrated steel plants, they include a blast furnace. And on this subject the hippies have won, as they should have done.”
He later rightly identifies America’s Nucor as the steelmaker behind the trend away from iron-making blast furnaces with its large-scale expansion of electric arc furnace (EAF) steel production, which effectively skips the iron-smelting phase and instead recycles scrap steel into new steel. Recycling. Hippies. Get it?
Worstall points out that Nucor and others have advanced EAF steelmaking to match integrated mill quality in many applications.
But alas, not all.
“It’s much too soon to write the obituary for the blast furnace/basic oxygen furnace steel production route,” said Ron Ashburn, executive director of the Association for Iron and Steel Technology. “While EAFs have 65% of the market in the United States, the opposite ratio holds true for the balance of global steel manufacturing.

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Zooming out from current US steel woes shows a long slide

October 8, 2015

US buyers and sellers of steel have lots of time on their hands to study their predicament as the market remains in the doldrums, but gaining perspective could produce even more malaise.
It has been more than a month since US integrated mills’ union contracts reached their expiration date and there are still no settlements with the United Steelworkers union. Union contracts at American automakers — steel’s best customer — are in limbo too, with United Auto Workers at Fiat Chrysler voting down a tentative agreement that could have set the standard for the industry.
Many in the steel industry are coming to the conclusion that mills must shutter some capacity for prices to rise and stimulate the market. But it seems like the labor situations are complicating matters, making it difficult for a mill to settle on a strategy.
A big boost in demand would solve a lot of the steelmakers’ problems with production, imports and inventories — and it might even help with the union situation — but no such boost is on the horizon. To the contrary, a labor strike or lockout in the auto industry could seriously dim the demand picture.
Steel market players are trying to avoid gloom and doom, but some are seeing a historically weak market. America’s Great Recession is the context for the economic health of the country, and for the steel industry, the current market compares unfavorably.

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Waiting for Good Dough: A steel tragicomedy

September 24, 2015

Hank Steel, sitting on a low mound of trade publications, is trying to take off his wing-tip shoe without untying it, panting. He gives up, exhausted, tries again.
Enter Bobby Mallaferro.
HANK: (giving up again) Nothing to sell.
BOBBY: (slowly approaching with an empty order book) Duh! Been like this a few months now. I tell myself, Bobby, be reasonable, somebody’s got to want some steel somewhere. (He broods, musing on sheet specs) Cyclical! Hah!
HANK: I’m glad to see you back. Mustn’t have been any shrimp at the reception.
BOBBY: (sitting down, rubbing his forehead) No leads either.
HANK: Want to hug it out?
BOBBY: (irritably) No. Not now.
HANK: Where did you sleep?
BOBBY: Motel 6. Outside Buffalo. (brightens) I saw a flatbed with a pup coil on it. Going to an end user, I bet. There are usually two.
HANK: Two what?
BOBBY: Coils. Two sheet coils on a flatbed. Remember?
HANK: (gloomily) It’s too much for one man. Too much inventory that’s not moving. On the dock. On the floor. On the boat. Under the bed, for chrissakes!
BOBBY: (feebly) We have the trade cases and the union could go on strike. Or get locked out. There could be a work stoppage. The mills want to cut costs . . .
HANK: (angrily) Would you help me with this shoe? They don’t make Florsheims like they used to. Motel 6, eh? Geez!
BOBBY: (rising) Are you making fun of me? My back hurts. The travel budget is gone.

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An uneasy union: how US steel and auto worker contract expirations led to industrial strife

September 17, 2015

America’s Labor Day was late this year, falling during the second week of September instead of the first. But that’s okay because anticipated big labor news was late as well.

This Labor Day came sandwiched between major union contract expirations — at steelmakers US Steel and ArcelorMittal on September 1 and at General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler on September 14 – and all these contracts have been extended as work towards settlements continue.
Like Christmas without snow or Thanksgiving without turkey, Labor Day without labor peace may have been a letdown for unionized steelworkers, but it was expected by many.
The August lockout of more than 2,000 United Steelworkers at Allegheny Technologies Inc. set the tone. The stainless steel producer is replacing union members with salaried and non-union workers while negotiations for a new contract continue, despite the USW’s offer to stay on the job.
With such contentiousness seeping anew into labor-management relations in one of the few remaining high-paying unionized industries (auto being another) some speculated there could be steel production stoppages at ArcelorMittal and USS, more likely due to lockouts than strikes, reflecting the companies’ leverage in the current round of negotiations.
Steel demand is weak and some time off to reduce inventories might be just what the doctor ordered.

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