NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Steel stocks were mostly higher Friday as a hectic week for the industry came to a close.On Thursday, top executives of American steelmaking companies made their case to members of the U.S. House of Representative's Steel Caucus, arguing that a carbon-emissions bill on the legislative docket would do lasting harm to their bottom lines and lead to even more layoffs in an industry hit hard by the recession but staging an apparent, and fragile, rebound. Leading the lobbying were the CEOs of U.S. Steel ( X - Get Report), Nucor ( NUE - Get Report) and AK Steel ( AKS - Get Report), among others. They also criticized the federal government's stimulus package, for being weak on infrastructure spending. Many had expected the stimulus bill to fund large-scale projects like road and bridge building, which would consume substantial amounts of steel. Meanwhile, the drama continued to escalate this week between China's behemoth steelmaking industry and the big-three producers of seaborne iron ore, steel's most crucial ingredient. The miners -- Rio Tinto ( RTP), BHP Billiton ( BHP) and Vale ( VALE - Get Report) -- want to hike prices by as much as 100% from the benchmark set in 2009, erasing the 48% drop in price suffered by the minors in recession-bound 2009. The miners also want to switch from annual contract prices -- through which 90% of the world's iron ore has historically been traded -- to short-term settlements linked to the spot market. China, by far the world's largest manufacturer of steel products, has balked at any shift in a pricing-regime status quo that has existed for the last 40 years. Until this week, that is. On Wednesday, the head of Chinese steelmaker Baosteel, which is serving as point-man in price negotiations with the miners, suggested that his company may be open to moving away from annual contracts. "Since the benchmark pricing system was introduced 40 years ago, the steel industry ... and the world have changed a lot," said Baosteel's chairman, Xu Leijang, as quoted by the Financial Times. (As a backdrop to all this, four China-based Rio Tinto executives remain embroiled in a trial in Shanghai, waiting on a verdict for charges of bribery and industrial espionage.)
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