Steel's New Spring

RON SCHWANE/AP

HEAVY METAL

For the last decade, much of the West's steel industry has been in the doldrums. Sinking prices and flat demand, rising costs and competition from Asia turned steel belts into rust belts as once-mighty American titans like LTV and Bethlehem Steel went belly up. Many of Europe's former communist bloc governments determinedly sold off their dilapidated, money-losing steel mills. Workers around the globe were bounced out of the devilishly cyclical industry in droves. Even bosses were shying away: in 1998, Michael Frenzel, then chairman of German industrial concern Preussag, became so fed up with the smokestack rollercoaster that he embarked...

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