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Construction, auto production outlook upbeat at AISTech

Keywords: Tags  AISTech 2013, Chad Utermark, Nucor-Yamato Steel, Nucor Castrip Arkansas, Andrew Harshaw, ArcelorMittal USA, Michael Rehwinkel, Evraz Inc. North America automotive production

PITTSBURGH — Nonresidential construction could return to pre-recession levels within the next few years, with U.S. light vehicle output hitting 17 million units annually by 2018, panelists said May 8 at the Association for Iron and Steel Technology’s AISTech 2013 conference.

Construction levels could be similar to those of 2005-08, Chad Utermark, vice president and general manager of Blytheville, Ark.-based Nucor-Yamato Steel Co. and Nucor Castrip Arkansas LLC, said, noting his company’s involvement with a new stadium in San Francisco.

"We could see an explosion in nonresidential construction, which has been absent these last few years," he said. "We’re still way off the levels we need to be at, but I think there are some signs that we could see some good times in the steel industry next year."

Andrew Harshaw, executive vice president of operations at Chicago-based ArcelorMittal USA LLC, agreed that the sector has been "dead on arrival" the past few years but looks likely to improve.

"There’s demand in the pipeline, although we still think it’s two to three years before we get back to normal demand," he said.

An expected rise in residential building should yield wider benefits for the steel industry, Michael Rehwinkel, president and chief executive officer of Chicago-based Evraz Inc. North America, said.

"Housing is coming back fairly warm, and when the housing market starts its upturn—which should be in the next one, two, three years—it will pull the rest of the industry up with it. Because it’s about jobs, and more tax dollars will come into the government that they’ll spend on infrastructure," he said.

Meanwhile, Harshaw said that the auto sector should continue to be one of the best-performing end markets for steel.

"You’d expect 15.1 million to 15.2 million cars to be produced this year," he said. "There’ll be some bumps in the road this year for automotive, but we expect it to get out to 17 million units by 2018."

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