Soaring steel prices in US hurt business

Associated Press

Washington, March 11:

Small business owners pleaded with lawmakers to tax steel and steel scrap exports to help stanch surging steel prices they said have more than doubled over the last year.

But steel producers and market analysts said the price spike is the result of unfair Chinese competition and, at any rate, likely is only temporary.

The plea was made Wednesday during a House Small Business Committee hearing.

It comes three months after the White House eliminated steep tariffs on steel imports.

Thousands of steel consuming businesses are located in Michigan, Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin - all political swing states President George W. Bush lost in 2000.

"With these types of (price) increases and (supply) shortages, it will be a matter of weeks before some companies go out of business," said Barbara Hemme, controller of Youngberg Industries, which makes vacuum furnaces in Belvidere, Illinois.

"An immediate tax on scrap and steel exports would help keep some of the steel here in the United States," she testified. "We cannot afford to have all our raw materials shipped to China."

The Commerce Department did not have an immediate comment.

Over the last year, the price of flat-rolled steel has more than doubled, to between $550 and $600 per tonne, said Wayne Atwell, an analyst for Morgan Stanley.