Bubble, Bubble, Toil and Trouble

Think of Hangxiao Steel Structure Co. as a scout on China's economic front line. Its 200 workers in Anhui province rivet together prefabricated structures for factory assembly lines, which churn out goods for stores like Wal-Mart. A year ago business was so brisk that the company imported 70 workers from distant Shandong province to keep up with demand. But the mainland's torrid investment in everything from automobile plants to office high-rises to railroads has boosted the price the company pays for its main raw material, steel, by 24% in just four months. Yet the company hasn't been able to raise its...

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