Steel orders bring some optimism

New steel orders rose 15 to 20 percent in late July, reports Iron Age magazine. The improvement left demand still depressed, however. With daily orders jumping up and down, even the modest rise was open to question. An advance in June, for instance, turned out to be only a bried spurt.

Nevertheless, there are grounds for encouragement in the latest rise. It comes at a time when orders for steel should be going up. The market should be moving past the worst of the seasonal slowdown. Extensive plant shutdowns made the slowdown unusually severe in July.

The drastic liquidation of steel inventories should also be slowing. Mill analysts say users can't continue cutting steel by more than a million tons a month much longer. Steel shipments should rise when inventories are stabilized.

Another encouragement for domestic mills is the report that steel imports declined in June. The 1.2 million-ton total for the month was down 26 percent from May and 12 percent from June 1979. This pattern tends to support the view that fears of dumping duties are causing foreign mills to back away from the US market.

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