Steel: The New Softness

From Indiana Harbor to Sparrows Point, the nation's steel industry showed little flare last week. Production has fallen in five of the past seven weeks, now hovers below 71% of capacity. Unfilled orders, which bulged at $5 billion in early 1960, are wheezing along at $3 billion. During the recovery of 1961, steel has contributed less—and benefited less—than in any other postwar economic comeback.

Tightening Up. Steel's new softness results from some basic economic changes. Increasingly, steel faces competition from alternative materials: aluminum is cutting into the auto market (the use of...

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