With the fourth quarter fast approaching and the
presidential election looming ever closer, the view of where
metal markets are heading seems no clearer than it was six
months or even a year ago.
Although many in the metals sector remain upbeat in general,
on specific points there is still concern: When will the
construction sector pick up? What is the overall future of
shale gas development? Where are taxes and regulations
AMM conducted a survey in the spring on behalf of
PricewaterhouseCoopers among global steel and aluminum
executives, a repeat of those in April last year and again in
October. We take a look at the meaning of the survey numbers
starting on page 14, but here are a few quick conclusions:
Executives are getting glummer. In April 2011, 94
percent of executives were very or somewhat optimistic about
the next 12 months; this year, that number fell to 71 percent.
This is still a strong number, but it shows concerns.
Recruiting, hiring, retaining and managing employees
remains the biggest strategic initiative or challenge that
Despite regular news about smaller deals and a return
to the occasional megadeal, only 17 percent of survey
respondents are aggressive in their approach to mergers and
acquisitions. This number has been essentially steady
throughout the past year.
A majority of executives see emerging
marketssuch as Brazil, Russia, India and Chinaas a
path to expansion in the next year. In last years survey,
less than half felt that way.
Greenhouse gas regulation continues to have little
impact on business. This may be due to the fact that national
legislative efforts have slowed greatly.
Information technology strategies are still an
important aspect of the metals business. (We will explore this
further in the October issue of the magazine.) In fact, 86
percent of survey respondents said it is very critical or
somewhat important to their operations, up slightly over last
Cautious is the word that best seems to describe
executives current thinking. The future looks like it
will be brighterafter all, business is better than it was
just three or four years agoand yet there remains a
nagging concern that something isnt quite right. Perhaps
the decisions that metal executives make in the coming months
will help sharpen those visions.