Record steel prices inject life into long-suffering industry

By: |
July 18, 2021 11:15 AM

Roaring industrial demand is propelling those rallies, with plants straining to boost supply after lying dormant during the pandemic

steel industry, steel demand, Keybanc Capital Markets and Bank of America Corp, powerhouses China and RussiaPrices of steel have boomed worldwide this year, smashing record after record

There’s rarely been a better time to be in the steel business. Prices have boomed worldwide this year, smashing record after record. Roaring industrial demand is propelling those rallies, with plants straining to boost supply after lying dormant during the pandemic. On top of that, powerhouses China and Russia are trying to limit exports to help other industries at home.

“If you’d asked me six months ago what was my most positive vision for the first half of 2021, I don’t think I would’ve even come close to the reality,” Carlo Beltrame, who manages Romania and France for AFV Beltrame, said in a phone interview. The closely-held company plans to build a 250 million-euro ($295 million) mill in Romania with the capacity to produce about 600,000 tons a year.

That optimism is a far cry from the past decade, when Western makers closed plants and shed workers as low demand had their mills operating below capacity. Last year alone, 72 blast furnaces were idled, according to UBS Group AG.

This year, U.S. President Joe Biden wants to spend on infrastructure, and the European Union wants to spend on reaching net-zero emissions. Manufacturers such as Nucor Corp., U.S. Steel Corp. and SSAB AB are among those set to become profit machines. ArcelorMittal SA, the world’s biggest outside of China, will earn more than McDonald’s Corp. or PepsiCo Inc., according to analysts’ estimates.

Few expect these good times to last through 2022. Keybanc Capital Markets and Bank of America Corp. believe the backlogs driving a surge in U.S. steel prices will start clearing this year. But some analysts predict the current rally may herald better times in the long run, with prices eventually settling at more sustainable levels than before.

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