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Resource Crunch: Why Many Things Cost Much More

By Tom Randall and Eric Roston - 2012-02-06T18:24:40Z

Photograph by Imaginechina/Corbis

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Peak Iron--Emerging Markets Keeps Prices High

There's good and bad news about peak iron. The good news is that demand has leveled off in the U.S. and much of the developed world. It's easier to recycle iron products than to mine new supplies.

The bad news: Emerging markets are just getting started on a high-iron diet. Steel skyscrapers from Bangalore to Beijing are piling up in record numbers, and more people than ever are driving cars to get to them. Price volatility jumped in recent years as miners failed to meet Chinese-led demand.

Consumption outpaced seaborne supply every year since at least 2004 and will continue to do so until 2014, Morgan Stanley estimates. The price of Australian lump ore was $184.09 a metric ton last year, compared with $29.40 in 2004.

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