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U.S. Steel gets booted from S&P 500

U.S. Sen. John F. Kennedy, center, tours U.S. Steel Gary Works on Feb. 5, 1960, while campaigning for the presidency. The steelmaker, the first billion-dollar corporation in U.S. history, was kicked off the S&P 500 stock index because its market capitalization was too small.

An era is over.

U.S. Steel has been booted from the S&P 500, a stock index of the largest and most influential companies in America.

The struggling Pittsburgh-based steelmaker, which has extensive operations in Northwest Indiana and built the city of Gary as a company town, was the world's first billion-dollar company and was once so huge it was known simply as "The Corporation." It was one of the most valuable companies in the index for much of the early half of the 20th century.

Martin Marietta Materials, a North Carolina-based maker of crushed stone, sand, and gravel, replaces U.S. Steel on the S&P 500, according to a news release from S&P Dow Jones indices. U.S. Steel is being demoted to the S&P MidCap 400.

The materials company, which makes aggregates for the construction industry, is in the process of buying cement producer Texas Industries, which is being removed from the S&P SmallCap 600 as a result of the acquisition.

Currently, Martin Marietta Materials has a market capitalization of $6.02 billion, compared to U.S. Steel's capitalization of $3.78 billion.

"Martin Marietta Materials has a market capitalization that is more representative of the large cap market space, and United States Steel has a market capitalization that is more appropriate for the mid-cap market space," S&P Dow Jones said in the announcement.

U.S. Steel, whose stock trades under the symbol X, was the largest steel producer headquartered in the United States by volume last year, but only the 13th biggest in the world, according to the World Steel Association.

The integrated steelmaker has failed to make money for five years, after the economic downtown gutted demand for the high-quality, high-margin steel products it makes. Its stock is one of the most frequently shorted, or bet against, on the S&P 500, a large and commonly followed stock index that is often considered a gauge of the entire U.S. economy.

U.S. Steel also had been a component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average for most of the 20th century, but was dropped in 1991 after significant downsizing in the 1980s. The company is shrinking again and has been laying off nonunion managers and supervisors, including in Northwest Indiana.

Analysts have been speculating that the struggling steelmaker would get dumped from the S&P 500, since it had one of the lowest market values on the list.

Several struggling companies, including J.C. Penney, Abercrombie & Fitch and Teradyne, were kicked out of the S&P 500 last year. Stock performance tends to lag after companies get booted from the index.

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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.