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January 2005 – Exciting times ahead

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Welcome to the expanded New Steel Construction, which will now come out monthly to open a more frequent window into the steel construction industry. Our focus will be on the industry’s successes and on how challenges are overcome in design, fabrication and steelwork erection.

Regular readers will notice a few changes in this issue, and there will be more over the coming months as we develop our ideas in line with reader feedback on what the steel sector’s flagship magazine should be like. We look forward to hearing your comments.

A key idea behind the changes is to provide more timely accounts of what is happening in the industry. This will mean more reports from projects which are at the construction stage. We will still look back to ask if things might have been done better and to learn lessons, but essentially New Steel Construction is about what is happening now.

It is encouraging that Corus has further signalled its support for the sector by joining the British Constructional Steelwork Association and the Steel Construction Institute as a full and equal partner in the magazine. Among other things, this will bring a wider readership to be catered for in our spread of articles and news stories. But whoever the reader is, New Steel Construction aims to be the first place to look to find out what is happening in the steel sector of the construction industry. Exciting times lie ahead for the steel sector and if New Steel Construction reflects that it can hardly fail to be an interesting and essential read.

Keeping the market supplied

The year 2004 was a turbulent one in the steel market, when price rises captured the imagination of newspaper headline writers across the world. Some were more imaginative than others, of course, and a lot of effort has been expended by the industry’s lobbyists in correcting some of the more unjustifiable headlines. That might be the case again in 2005, but there are some encouraging signs of more stability in steel prices. The Chinese market, for example, looks like cooling down as a result of government anti inflationary policies which should take pressure off scrap, coke and freight prices.

All major steel consuming markets worldwide saw demand growth in 2004, not just China. Global demand looks like rising again in 2005 and iron ore, coke and scrap shortages will no doubt grab headlines again. It’s part of the price we pay for steel being so popular worldwide as a structural framing material, but it’s worth remembering that all primary construction materials are feeling upward pressure on prices.

One thing which stood out during the turbulence of 2004, and which is likely to be repeated in 2005, was the ability of steel producers to maintain supplies to their customers during what were extremely challenging times. Prices today are still well below the levels of almost 20 years ago in real terms, and often in absolute terms as well. This reflects the fact that massive improvements in efficiency across the steel sector have been passed on to customers, ensuring that steel is the cost effective construction material of choice for most applications.

Corus has said that it remains dedicated to doing all it can to maintain the competitiveness of its customers, and is confident of being able to keep them supplied during 2005. So when you see the scare headlines arising again, ignore them. Check with New Steel Construction if you want the facts.

Nick Barrett

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