Back to Basics: Suddenly, A Bright Future for Old-Economy Firms in Industries Like Steel and Mining
LA Times -- The price of U.S. Steel's stock has shot up 1,000% in recent years (from $16 in 2003 to more than $180 this month, see chart above) as industrial America has been resurrected to meet the needs of a feverishly industrializing world.
The new vitality is reflected in a major surge in exports of U.S. goods, up about 80% over the last five years, to $316 billion in the first quarter of 2008 from $176 billion in the first quarter of 2003, government figures show.Foreign demand has helped drive U.S. Steel from a loss of $420 million five years ago to a nearly $880-million gain last year. Mining giant Freeport-McMoRan's profit is up 1,539%, from $181.7 million to nearly $3 billion. Fertilizer maker Mosaic Co.'s earnings went from $54 million for all of 2003 to $521 million for just the three months ended in February.
Perhaps the most fiercely held assumption about the economy has been that U.S. manufacturers could never compete globally because Americans earned vastly more than foreign workers. During the last several decades, though, the wages of many American workers have not grown at anything like the rates they used to. In the last decade, they haven't grown at anything like wages in much of the emerging world. So the wage gap is narrowing.