Small mills do a brisk trade

Steel mini-mills are enjoying a brisk business, Iron Age magazine indicates. One of the larger mini-mill systems reports orders are up 40 percent from last year. A Midwestern mini-mill is sold out through January. The head of a Southern mini-mill says volume is good now and has been right along.

As the name suggests, the mini-mills are relatively small steel plants. Typical output is around 500,000 tons a year. The main products are merchant bar, light structurals, and wire rod. Taken together, the mini-mills now produce over 10 million tons a year. At least three new mills are being built.

The mini-mill picture varies considerably according to products, regions, and markets. The wire rod business is good, but there may be some price buying involved. Barbed wire and fencing, which are associated with farming, are in their slow season. Demand for bars going into freight cars and other industrial applications has slowed.

However, there appears to be very strong demand in a major mini-mill field: bars and structurals for construction.

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