STEEL: Rift in the Ranks

Even before its hefty wage settlement early this month, the steel industry was braced for a slack third quarter. Most big customers are still using up the steel they stockpiled as a hedge against a possible strike. Nonetheless, steelmakers, led by U.S. Steel, announced an 8% across-the-board price increase to take effect on Dec. 1. Behind the scenes, though, hard-pressed companies began seeking sales by offering discounts—urging automakers to sign orders for cold-rolled steel before the increase and take delivery afterward at current prices. Last week an open rift developed within the industry when Bethlehem Steel, the second largest...

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