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Algos Keep Losing to Human Traders in $900 Billion Steel Market

A worker at a U.S. Steel mill.
A worker at a U.S. Steel mill.Photographer: Mark H. Milstein/Bloomberg

As automation reshapes financial markets around the world, there’s still one place where handshake deals are the norm and using technology means bcc-ing bids and offers over email.

The complex and antiquated world of steel -- among the oldest industries in America -- is one of the last lines of defense against the bots. Instead of a computerized market where orders ping-pong back and forth in milliseconds, a large bulk of the industry’s transactions are done in annual contract deals, with agreed-upon prices and volumes. Unlike most commodities, there’s hardly a futures market and when steel does trade, it’s by phone or email.