The Clearest Windows Into Weakness
I haven't been posting my articles in recent days, so I wonder whether Fools have been tracking any of my coverage of the steel sector and what these bellwethers are indicating about the present direction of our domestic economy.
Here is my latest: The Clearest Windows Into Weakness
I like to picture an economy as a house of interconnected rooms that are only visible, in sections, through windows from the outside.
Here in the United States, I see four kinds of windows into our present economic house:
Windows into the rooms where a booming housing market once lived have been boarded up for a few years now, spray-painted like those hurricane-battered homes in New Orleans to indicate they are empty.
Upstairs, where windows were blasted off their frames by the implosion of financial derivatives, the rooms are as if frozen in time. These financial weapons of mass destruction remain shut in amid the shadows of crafty balance sheets by the trillions.
Other panes are coated in a film of murky uncertainty and confusion, permitting no light to reveal what's inside. Media punditry, political rhetoric, and misinterpreted data swirl about those rooms in a cacophony of errors.
And then there are the steelmakers. With a reliability all their own, I believe that clear windows into the foundries of a nation's metalsmiths yield more direct insight into the underlying health of an economy than most other vantage points. I believe that sustainable recovery is impossible without the widespread participation of the industrial base, and so I continue to hold vigil outside their window.----
After turning in six consecutive quarterly losses, and after observing a corroborating fall-off in order rates, U.S. Steel (NYSE: X) sees deterioration of its operating performance for the second half. Steel Dynamics (Nasdaq: STLD) conveyed caution in its outlook for the second half, and Schnitzer Steel (Nasdaq: SCHN) foresees deteriorating sales volumes meeting tighter profit margins. Nucor (NYSE: NUE) is the voice in the industry that lays the stark reality on the table. Nucor warns of "the possibility of a double-dip recession, or at minimum a significant slowing of growth."
If you want a rosy, upbeat view of the economy, I believe they have windows for that. From where I stand, however, I am sorry to say I see the fires of American industry growing dim once again.
If you read my SpongeBob piece, I'm particularly interested to know what you thought
Don't Invest Like SpongeBob SquarePants