At the midpoint of 2013,
its still unclear what kind of year it will be for the
steel industry. Every positive signal seems to be
counterbalanced by a negative one: Low-priced natural gas will
help keep costs down, but U.S. trade policy may not keep
foreign steel at bay; the overall economy continues to recover
at a moderate pace, but tax and employment issues threaten to
dull that edge; and automotive production and sales are holding
firm, but raw material costs remain volatile and possibly
The enforcement of trade laws
also remains an issue. Many charge that China, Brazil, Egypt
and India have imposed trade restrictions on a number of
imports and exports, affecting trade in raw materials and in
finished products. Some sectors, such as tube and pipe, face
competition from cheaper products from Asia, especially South
Korea. And there are other--potentially major--challenges.
Possible tax increases, high unemployment rates and slowing
growth in the manufacturing sector could become problems.
Recent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations have
hurt, rather than helped, steelmakers, industry advocates say.
And while the United States remains one of the strongest
economies globally, lackluster growth and a large fiscal
deficit may cause downward pressure in the near term.