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taken, although until the prices improved consumers as a rule were not allowed to book orders for a long period ahead. In May and June, as the order books filled, the larger companies became more independent of the consumers' demands. This increased the orders still more, so that by October many of the plants had their full capacity in demand for the rest of the year and for the first quarter of 1910. During the last three months of 1909 the largest establishments were accepting business only for shipment at the convenience of the mill. The last half of 1909 was very satisfactory to the steel trade.
The effect of the United States Steel Corporation seems to have been primarily to steady prices and to maintain more nearly a rate of prices of the finished product dependent upon the costs of the leading raw materials so far as that can be readily determined. During its earlier years from 1901 to 1907 in many of the leading finished products the same price was maintained absolutely for a period of months, sometimes even of years, and the other producers in the market generally followed substantially the lead of the Corporation. Since 1909 this policy does not seem to have been quite so rigidly adhered to, with the exception of the price of steel rails. It is to be noted, however, that the margin between raw materials-steel billets on the chart-and the finished product, such as wire nails and similar products, has been much more nearly uniform than before 1909 and has been much steadier than during the earlier periods before the Corporation was organized.
If now, in order to measure as nearly as possible the
influence of combinations on prices, we study the purchasing power of steel as compared with general commodities, we obtain interesting results. Inasmuch as the United States Steel Corporation is the largest industrial combination and as it has been the subject of prosecution by the United States Government, it has seemed best to give special attention to steel prices. Chart VII illustrates the purchasing power of a unit of seven different steel commodities. These were selected so as to illustrate the various kinds of steel products (Bessemer pig iron, No. 2 foundry pig iron, Bessemer steel billets, steel rails, beams, tank plate, black sheets) and to make a comparison of prices here, in England, and in Germany. The prices shown on the chart are the relative prices from year to year compared with the prices from the years 1895 to 1900, averaged as a base. On the chart this base is shown by the line marked 100 and the other lines are represented in their variations from this base.
The purchasing power of a unit of these seven steel commodities in terms of general commodities is indicated. Steel in the United States is compared with the index number of the United States, steel in England with the index number of that country, and steel in Germany with the index number of Germany. On the chart then we see line L, which represents the purchasing power of these seven commodities in Germany starting somewhat above the base in 1900. It soon fell to the base. In 1901-1902 and part of 1903 it remained below. Then, going first above, then below, returning above again in 1907, it remained above the base until in 1911, the last point at which we can secure the
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index number, it was standing some 20 points above the purchasing price of the years 1895 to 1900. Tracing now the red line F, showing the purchasing power of these steel commodities in Great Britain, we find that at the end of 1914 with certain fluctuations above and below the base line, mostly above it, it stood at the end of 1914 some 35 points above the base line. On the whole, then, in both Germany and England, the prices of steel averaged higher than the price of commodities in general and a ton of steel would during most of this period buy more commodities after 1900 than during the five years preceding.
Quite different, however, is the course of prices in the United States. In the first place, noting the black line B, which represents the index number showing prices of general commodities in the United States, we find that starting in 1900, some 12 or 15 points above the average of the prices from 1895 to 1900, it steadily increased until at the end of 1914, the last date when the figures can be secured, it stood at about 140. On the other hand, the average price of these seven steel commodities started in 1900 two and one-half points below the average price from 1895 to 1900. Since that time it has never reached the base. After the formation of the Steel Corporation in 1901, the prices averaged lower than before, and while there have been slight increases from time to time, on the whole prices have been steadily downward. In 1912 the average of these prices was some 30 points below the base, and at the end of 1914, the last date at which we can secure the index number for commodities, the purchasing power of steel still remained some 20 points below the base line.