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The Latest News in Steel & Metals

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In order to serve the steel and metals industry, we have to know the steel and metals industry. Here are some of the latest news stories. 

Copper is Killing the Coronavirus

Researchers reported last month that the novel coronavirus can survive for several days on glass and stainless steel surfaces—but dies within hours after landing on copper material. The researchers who discovered this were actually surprised that it lived that long on copper, as copper has been known to have strong disinfectant properties for thousands of years. 

Bill Keevil is a microbiology researcher at the University of Southampton in the U.K., and has been studying the antimicrobial effects of copper for more than 20 years. He’s worked with our world’s most famous viruses, including the bacteria that causes Legionnaire’s Disease and the Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA. He’s also studied outbreaks that have caused worldwide health scares, much like COVID-19, like the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and the Swine Flu (H1N1) pandemic of 2009. In all of the mentioned cases, copper killed the pathogen in question within minutes. 

Keevil started working with Coronavirus 229E, a close relative of today’s COVID-19, in 2015. This virus, in particular, causes the common cold and pneumonia. Copper, as expected, killed the virus within minutes, while it stayed infectious for five days on other surfaces like stainless steel and glass. He’s pointed out the irony in this, as people often choose stainless steel for their countertops because it’s supposed to be cleaner. In a way, it is cleaner—however, the deciding factor in how clean it really lies in how often you clean it, while copper disinfects simply by existing. 

Before people even knew about germs or viruses, they knew about copper’s disinfectant powers. The first recorded use of copper as an infection-killing agent comes from Smith’s Papyrus, the oldest-known medical document in history. An Egyptian doctor from around 1,700 B.C. referenced it there, but the information he used actually dates back as far as 3,200 B.C. Egyptians designated the ankh symbol, which represented eternal life, to denote copper in hieroglyphs. In addition, the Chinese used copper coins as medication to treat heart pain, stomach pain, and bladder diseases as far back as 1,600 B.C. 

Keevil, along Michael G. Schmidt, a professor of microbiology and immunology at the Medical University of South Carolina, have done extensive research on the utilization of copper in healthcare settings. They found that installing copper on just 10% of surfaces would not only prevent infections, but save the facility $1,176 per day (comparing the reduced cost of treating infections to the cost of installing the copper surfaces) as well—but hospitals have been slow to respond. 

This resistance most likely has to do with our healthcare system, and funding to our hospitals, which is tight. Of course, it’s more expensive to replace things that aren’t broken—however, there are great opportunities for utilizing copper in hospitals when it comes time for renovation or new buildings. 

Solid Markets Aid Commercial Metals Amid Coronavirus Scare

Commercial Metals Company is in a good place to gain from robust key end markets, acquisitions, and investments at this time, as well as the growing construction activities in the United States and Poland. There are, however, concerns about the coronavirus pandemic weighing on steel prices, which will hurt the company’s margins. 

Despite these concerns, the company has reported positive second-quarter fiscal 2020 results. Adjusted earnings per share came in at $0.53—beating the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $0.50. The figure also increased by 82.8% year over year. Commercial Metals’ delivery of amazing fiscal second-quarter results was aided by a robust demand from construction markets in the U.S. and Poland. In fact, Commercial Metals outpaced the Zacks Consensus Estimate in all of the trailing four quarters with an average positive surprise of 15.3%. 

In addition to these positive numbers, spending on construction activities in the United States and in Easter Europe continues to rise, in large part due to recent spending on state and local highway projects. This will most likely spur an increase in demand for long-product steel and rebar. President Trump has also proposed a $2-trillion infrastructure plan to stimulate the U.S. Economy, which is likely to further fuel Commercial Metals’ steel demand. 

Construction demand in Poland, and the company’s investment in the country, will set it up for success in the coming days. The rise in construction activities is also expected to drive demand for the spooled rebar market. Solid fabrication backlog and an upbeat rebar-margin environment will likely drive Commercial Metal’s Performance in fiscal 2020. 


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