From the Editor

  • Five years later, could pessimism be deeper? Mar 01, 2014

    When ferrous scrap market players gathered at the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries’ annual convention five years ago, many did so with a sense of optimism despite still being in the well of the economic downturn.

  • Who’s to blame if 2014 is another mediocre year? Jan 01, 2014

    “No confidence in this government,” said one respondent to the AMM survey of metal company executives. “We need to make our own best decisions from a business standpoint no matter what Washington does or doesn’t do.”

  • Scrap market keeps everyone guessing Oct 01, 2013

    At the 6th annual AMM Steel Scrap Conference in Philadelphia last November, a North American economy that had difficulty gaining traction was a major topic of conversation.

  • Steel executives present mixed feelings on future Aug 01, 2013

    Cautious is the word that best describes steel executives’ current thinking. The future looks like it will be brighter—after all, business is better than it was just four or five years ago—but there remains a nagging concern that something isn’t quite right.

  • At year’s halfway point, is the glass half empty or half full? Jun 27, 2013

    At the midpoint of 2013, it’s 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 harmful.

  • It's an honor to recognize the best May 27, 2013

    We always have a spring in our step here at AMM at the start of summer, an exciting time of year. Soon we will be announcing the winners in the fourth annual Awards for Steel Excellence program, as well as inducting the next group of honorees into our Steel Hall of Fame.

  • Find the energy to make your case, honestly May 01, 2013

    It’s not news, I suppose, to point out that energy is a contentious and controversial subject in America these days. After all, when is it not?

  • Scrap futures deserving of open-minded study Mar 27, 2013

    It is understandable that players in the scrap sector have approached CME Group Inc.’s new ferrous scrap futures contracts with a certain level of skepticism.

  • The only certainty is Government must work Jan 01, 2013

    I’m going to say something that will probably sound heretical to many in the metals sector: When it is functional, government provides certainty in an otherwise uncertain environment.

  • A wild year for scrap prices Nov 01, 2012

    What a difference a year makes. At AMM’s fifth annual Steel Scrap Conference in Chicago in November last year, much of the talk was about the remarkable run of stability the market had seen during 2011 up until then.

  • Comment: Information technology key to long-term success Oct 01, 2012

    Technology is vital to all metal sectors, but it’s not just breakthroughs in production and processes that are important to the bottom line. Information technology has become just as significant, and an array of hardware, software, systems analysis mechanisms and data-analysis tools are available to help metal companies make better decisions.

  • AMM Comment: Some visions of the future are clouded by caution Aug 29, 2012

    With the fourth quarter fast approaching and the presidential election looming ever closer, the view of where metal markets are heading seems no clearer than it was six months or even a year ago.

  • AMM Comment: The past still lives in our minds and actions Jul 01, 2012

    When William Faulkner wrote that “The past is never dead. It’s not even past,” chances are he wasn’t thinking about the steel industry. But nevertheless, the idea applies quite well. Without an awareness of metals history and at least living partially under the shadow that it casts, forward progress would not be possible.

  • AMM Comment: Seven habits of highly successful metal execs May 29, 2012

    At AMM, we’re going to be full of stars in the coming weeks as we induct the newest members of our Steel Hall of Fame and present awards for excellence to industry leaders in aluminum and steel. In this issue, we profile the latest Steel Hall of Fame inductees, as well as the finalists for our aluminum and steel awards.

  • AMM Comment: Steel industry should be embracing IT advances May 01, 2012

    This month’s issue offers a story on controlling risk in the aluminum sector. The use of information technology (IT) for budgeting, forecasting and other financial-related aspects of running a metals business are an important part of that approach. Aluminum firms are to be commended for their foresight here.

  • AMM COMMENT:  You’ve got to ask yourself one question Apr 01, 2012

    Other than the cowboy, there may not be a symbol that more powerfully evokes the American ideals of autonomy and individualism than the automobile. Those icons came together at halftime during the Super Bowl, when Chrysler aired an ad featuring Clint Eastwood. Before delving further into the ad, its fallout and what it says about the short-term fortunes of the automotive metals sector, some context is needed.

  • AMM COMMENT: Steel Hall of Fame honorees named Mar 01, 2012

    Sometimes, the greatest heat in steelmaking doesn’t come from the plant floor. Pressures to perform in competition with other companies and for the corporate bottom line can raise the temperatures in which executives must work every day.

  • COMMENT: AMM Steel Hall of Fame to honor all-time greats Feb 01, 2012

    Making steel may be all in a day’s work for millions of people around the world, but sometimes during the course of that effort a few individuals make history and long-lasting breakthroughs.

  • COMMENT: U, V, W not quite as easy as learning the ABCs Dec 19, 2011

    U, V and W: They’re not just the 21st, 22nd and 23rd letters of the alphabet. They also represent three competing theories on the current downturn and where the economy might be heading in 2012.

  • Comment: Automotive recovery bolsters case for government action Nov 01, 2011

    In modern America at least, economic recovery requires bipartisanship; better yet would be nonpartisanship. Paradoxically, this becomes truer in clearly divided political times such as today.

  • Comment: 2011 shaping up as a banner year for scrap business Oct 01, 2011

    With the first three quarters of 2011 in the books, prices for scrap today are at their highest levels in history when measured against annual averages.

  • COMMENT: Obama must lead on infrastructure to move economy Aug 01, 2011

    When it comes to backing the notion of government intervention in the marketplace, business leaders in the metals industry have just three words for Washington: infrastructure, infrastructure, infrastructure.

  • COMMENT: Jury still out on steel vs. aluminum environmental fight Jul 01, 2011

    Of all the contemporary rivalries involving the environment—paper vs. plastic, oil vs. coal, wind vs. solar—steel vs. aluminum might end up among the most important. It certainly is emerging as one of the most hard fought in the court of public and industry opinion.

  • COMMENT: AMM Awards for Steel Excellence reflect winning ways Jun 01, 2011

    This is an exciting time at AMM. We’re just weeks away from announcing the winners in the second Awards for Steel Excellence program.

  • COMMENT: Is aluminum ready for opportunities and challenges? May 01, 2011

    It’s good to be king, they say. But short of that, it’s not too bad being in the aluminum business right now.

  • Business lessons of the aughts ought not to be ignored Apr 01, 2011

    The past decade has been an interesting one for the scrap industry, to say the least. Demand has blossomed, prices have soared and profit margins for the most part have been good.

  • Facing up to the reality of energy, ecology and economy Mar 01, 2011

    Forget the three Rs. Let’s talk about the three Es: energy, ecology and economy. All three are serious issues facing America and its citizens and businesses, and each is something the metals industry needs to take to heart in a frank way.

  • Runaway train fueled by steel prices Feb 01, 2011

    It’s a seasonal ritual at my house, one that goes something like this About mid-December, dive into the bedroom closet, retrieve a box or two of Christmas bulbs, a tangle of lights and a beat-up tree stand. Then head to the living room, anchor the tree in the stand, breathe deep and steel yourself for the ultimate test ... stringing 10 feet of model-train track together in as perfect and level an ellipse as possible around the base of the newly decorated tree.

  • Even in divided political times, some things are certain Dec 01, 2010

    If American business—and the metals sector especially—presented a Word of the Year award, 2010’s winner would be an easy and probably unanimous choice uncertainty.

  • Even in divided political times, some things are certain Dec 01, 2010

    If American business—and the metals sector especially—presented a Word of the Year award, 2010’s winner would be an easy and probably unanimous choice uncertainty.

  • The take-away from Tokyo ... mostly turbulence free Nov 01, 2010

    It takes 14 hours to fly non-stop from New York’s JFK International Airport to Japan’s Narita Airport outside Tokyo—time enough to knock off two movies, a crime novel and three in-flight meals served complete with hot towels and green tea.

  • On the ground and in the air, titanium waits for a lift Oct 01, 2010

    From Wall Street to Everett, Wash.—where they’re putting together the Boeing 787 Dreamliner—to the big aircraft forging shops around Los Angeles and Boston, as well as the Tier 1 subcontractors of the industrial heartland, anyone who makes, sells or works with titanium is wondering “What kind of market cycle are we in for?”

  • It’s time for the titans of the steel industry to get their due Aug 01, 2010

    In the cut and thrust of the modern steel industry, it’s all too easy to forget to recognize the achievements of individuals and enterprises that have helped drive the industry forward.

  • Conference reflects change of fortune--and participation Jul 01, 2010

    Somewhere in the region of 1,000 leaders from all aspects of the steel industry will convene in New York this month for what has become an annual summit of the sector’s movers and shakers.

  • Investors applaud but dangers lurk in de-integration Jun 01, 2010

    According to Rio Tinto Alcan’s chief executive, aluminum is not yet out of the woods and it may take quite a while, perhaps even a couple of years, until inventories return to healthy levels.

  • China’s uncertainty principle May 01, 2010

    It’s a basic rule of investing that you should distinguish between risk, which is largely measurable, and uncertainty, which isn’t. Embrace the former and, unless you have nerves of steel and deep pockets, be very wary of the latter.

  • Obama may choose to speak softly on currency issues Apr 01, 2010

    When Leo Gerard starts praising Ronald Reagan, you know the world is changing.

  • Number-crunching alone won’t add up to success Mar 01, 2010

    One of the highlights at AMM’s State of Steel Conference in January was the on-stage interview with Keith Busse. Steel Dynamics Inc.’s president and chief executive officer put on an assured display, leading one industry veteran to comment that he was “pretty good for an accountant.”

  • US can learn a lesson from China: export, export, export Feb 01, 2010

    After a year in office, the Obama administration seems to have managed to split the country on most issues. Approval ratings of 50 percent as of mid-January indicate widespread disagreement on many of the President’s policies, from health care reform to climate change to financial regulation. Add issues like “card check” and “Buy American,” and it’s a good bet that there’s a big difference of opinion in the metals industry, too.

  • The past may be prologue but it's not necessarily a reliable forecasting tool  Jan 01, 2010

    Question: if you’d cleared space in your garage on Jan. 1, 2009, for a ton of No. 1 heavy melt scrap, a couple of hundred pounds of copper and an ounce of gold, which would have proved the smartest investment a year on?

  • The past may be prologue but it's not necessarily a reliable forecasting tool  Jan 01, 2010

    Question: if you’d cleared space in your garage on Jan. 1, 2009, for a ton of No. 1 heavy melt scrap, a couple of hundred pounds of copper and an ounce of gold, which would have proved the smartest investment a year on?

  • A 180-day deadline to crush ‘clunkers’ could deliver unintended consequences Nov 01, 2009

    Chances are that when the federal government’s “Cash for Clunkers” incentive program was implemented in the summer, questions of its impact on the scrap industry was pretty low on the administration’s list of priorities.

  • Stimulus funds may be too little, but not yet too late Oct 01, 2009

    Too little, too slow. But not necessarily too late. That seems to sum up steel’s verdict on the impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), better known as the economic stimulus package.

  • Forecasting is difficult, especially if it’s about the future Aug 01, 2009

    Followers of Nostradamus credit him with predicting all kinds of events—from the rise of Napoleon to World War II. But if the medieval seer had been tasked with forecasting the near-term future of the aluminum industry, he might have been left scratching his head.

  • How the mighty are fallen Jul 01, 2009

    In the months since the economy collapsed, it’s become something of a bittersweet parlor game to try to pinpoint exactly when the overwhelming confidence of the financial boom tipped over into something closer to hubris.

  • It’s that time again Apr 20, 2009

    At least once a year, and always in step with the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries’ annual convention and exposition, AMM takes a close look at the financial ups and downs, major themes, high-profile players, companies and events that have made their mark—good or bad—on the ferrous and nonferrous scrap industries over the preceding 12 months.

  • Short-term angst vs. long-term value? Apr 20, 2009

    Was it a mistake? As the global commodity boom disintegrated over the past eight months and the wisdom of decisions made when the going was good has increasingly been called into question, that is something many industry executives have been asking themselves. Some strategic moves made at the height of the bubble, such as Rio Tinto’s $38.1-billion acquisition of Alcan, have been proved to be all-but-disastrous for the buyer; others, notably BHP Billiton’s aborted bid for Rio, nearly so.

  • When standing still can be a sign of progress Mar 19, 2009

    It’s a critical transportation industry. It’s been hit hard by the financial crisis. And metals suppliers who had been banking on a continued expansion are now facing a very different situation.

  • In a pickle Feb 24, 2009

    Toll processing has never been the most glamorous part of the metals industry. Processors don’t make steel; they don’t buy steel; they don’t own steel. But it’s a critical part of the North American metal supply chain, and right now it’s suffering badly.

  • ‘You want us to buy American, then sell American’ Feb 24, 2009

    For a concept whose roots date back to the early 1930s and the last time this country found itself in as deep an economic funk as it is today, the “Buy America” provision in President Obama’s stimulus package has roared back onto the American industrial/manufacturing scene with lightning-rod quickness and controversy

  • Early Christmas gift might prove to be a lump of coal Jan 01, 2009

    Have we hit bottom? In the weeks leading up to the Christmas holidays, that was the question on the lips of many in the North American industry. That it was even being asked could be viewed as a sign of progress from September through mid-November, the market direction was unequivocally down.

  • A letter to the (new) President First, fix what’s broken Dec 01, 2008

    It’s been described, aptly, as the inbox from hell. As Barack Obama puts together his transition team in the weeks before his inauguration on Jan. 20, the President-elect could be forgiven if depression—with a small “d”—sets in.

  • Measuring the fallout as the aluminum bubble bursts Nov 01, 2008

    When a bubble bursts, it doesn’t take long for the gas to escape.

  • Beneath the turbulence, there’s tons of thrust Oct 01, 2008

    Flying is not as much fun as it used to be. From the ever-decreasing size of airlines’ complimentary packets of peanuts to the introduction of eye-popping fuel surcharges, much of the sense of excitement and adventure seems to have gone from the whole experience.

  • Coking coal becomes the flavor of the month Aug 21, 2008

    It was only a few months ago that Donald R. Lindsay, chief executive officer of Teck Cominco Ltd., was lamenting the lack of opportunities in one segment of the steelmaking raw materials market. Teck would love to get into the iron ore business, he said in February, but the problem was there were no good properties available.

  • The decision wasn’t ours, an option to consider is yours Jul 30, 2008

    No less a figure than Lakshmi N. Mittal sounded a warning note in his otherwise upbeat speech at AMM’s Steel Success Strategies XXIII conference in June. Surging input costs are “unsustainable,” he said, and risk hurting the steel industry’s customers.

  • Remember you are mortal Jul 01, 2008

    As viewers of HBO’s mini-series Rome will know, emperors from Julius Caesar onwards sought to resist delusions of grandeur by employing a slave to whisper in their ear, “Remember you are mortal.” Amid the pomp and circumstance of what many people now acknowledge to be the most sustainable period of growth in the steel market for a generation, a similar warning would be advisable.

  • Aluminum is down . . . but don’t count it out Jun 01, 2008

    If the boom in commodity prices has been a home run for most metal producers, it’s fair to say aluminum is stuck kicking dust on second base.

  • It’s no joke, but bundles surge may leave some laughing May 01, 2008

    While we like to think that much of the news reported in AMM makes readers sit up and take notice, only occasionally does a news story send shockwaves through the industry.

  • The new kings of scrap Mar 28, 2008

    When mini-mills such as Nucor Corp. and later Steel Dynamics Inc. (SDI) established the viability of electric-arc furnace steelmaking in the U.S., they overturned a few sacred cows in the process. Traditional producers had to change their game, while the knock-on impact of their strategy helped refashion the way steel was produced.

  • COMMENT It’s time for the infrastructure issue to hit the campaign trail Mar 01, 2008

    This year’s race for the White House could be closer than any election in recent memory. As the remaining candidates geared up for Super Tuesday in early February, it was still anyone’s guess as to who would win the eventual nominations for November’s presidential election.

  • The M&A tide in ’07 could become a tidal wave in ‘08 Jan 01, 2008

    It’s tempting to characterize 2007 as the year of consolidation in the metals industry. But if there’s a good reason not to, it’s because there’s every chance that what we’ve seen during the past year will pale in comparison to what might take place in 2008. As long as the China-fueled commodities boom lasts, there will be demand for natural resources—and producers, profiting from high prices, will have money to spend on acquiring competitors, suppliers or customers.

  • Two templates, two giants and a live testing ground Oct 01, 2007

    A battle has been building in the service center industry for a few years now. The major protagonists, of course, are Reliance Steel & Aluminum Co. and Ryerson Inc., the two largest players—by some distance—in the sector.

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