Earlier in the month, The St. Louis Post Dispatch (free, no registration required) reprinted a Wall Street Journal article about the trend towards vertical integration and tighter buyer / supplier relationships in strategic metals categories. According to the article, "data provider Dealogic has counted 475 deals worldwide in metals and steel, valued at $71.7 billion, up sharply from 398 deals valued at $24.3 billion during the same period last year. In machinery, there have been 499 deals, valued at $24.8 billion, up from 346 deals valued at $14.2 billion a year ago." The piece indirectly cites volatility -- not just rising prices -- as one of the reasons for deal activity. And it also references Boeing's recent move to lock-up titanium supplies on behalf of its supply base noting its "joint venture with Russia's OAO VSMPO-Avisma, the world's largest titanium producer, to supply components for its new Dreamliner jets. The 50-50 joint venture requires an initial investment of $30 million each." For those interested in better understanding the complexity of today's metals environment -- and how market leaders are moving to shore-up supply and lock-in prices -- this piece is a great place to start.