Updated from 11:09 p.m. ESTU.S. steel makers are hoping corporate alchemy can transmute their broken industry into a unified international competitor. Wall Street, so far, is liking the trick. Steel stocks continued to strengthen a day after USX-U.S. Steel ( X), the top U.S. steel producer, and Bethlehem Steel ( BS) said they were in talks to consolidate most of the country's production in an effort to stave off foreign competition. At least three other firms were discussing their plan to consolidate. The merger talks aim to address the competition posed by cheap foreign imports, which domestic producers say are supported by foreign government subsidies. The plan also calls for help from Washington to bear the weight of pension and retiree healthcare costs, a move that the companies said would remove the "most significant barrier to consolidation of a highly fragmented industry."