NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Global steel production continued its steady climb from the lows it reached in late 2008 and early 2009, with China remaining the engine of that comeback, according to the August industry report from the World Steel Association, issued by the group on Monday.

In August, the 66 countries surveyed by the trade group produced 106.5 million metric tons. That's up 2.5% from the previous month, but still down 5.5% from August 2008.

The picture becomes darker (if unsurprisingly so) if you tote up the year-to-date numbers and compare them to the same period in 2008. Worldwide, year-to-date steel production is off 22% from a year ago. And excluding the buoying factor of the Chinese steel industry, year-to-date output is down 39% from the first eight months of 2008.

The report offers insight into just how much China has focused on boosting its manufacturing via its vaunted stimulus package, and just how much China has become the world's great steelmaking nation. August marked the most steel -- 52.3 million metric tons -- the country has ever produced in a month.

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China now makes almost as much steel as the rest of the world combined. Chinese steel production is up 22% from August 2008, while the rest of the world's output has shrunk by the same margin.

Japan and South Korea, two other leading steelmaking countries, also experienced a fairly strong August, with output rising 8.5% and 5.2% compared with July, respectively.

As for the U.S. steel industry, production amounted to 5.2 million metric tons (an order of magnitude less than the China), a decline of 40% from August 2008, one of the sharpest declines among the important steelmaking nations.

Steel equities were modestly lower Monday, along with the broader market.

U.S. Steel

(X) - Get Report

shares were down almost 2% at $48.19;

AK Steel

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fell 0.6% to $22.91; and


(NUE) - Get Report

slipped 0.5% to $49.43.

American depositary receipts of


(MT) - Get Report

suffered more than the rest of the sector, losing nearly 4% to $38.90 in New York trading Monday.

-- Written by Scott Eden in New York

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Scott Eden has covered business -- both large and small -- for more than a decade. Prior to joining, he worked as a features reporter for Dealmaker and Trader Monthly magazines. Before that, he wrote for the Chicago Reader, that city's weekly paper. Early in his career, he was a staff reporter at the Dow Jones News Service. His reporting has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Men's Journal, the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times, and the Believer magazine, among other publications. He's also the author of Touchdown Jesus (Simon & Schuster, 2005), a nonfiction book about Notre Dame football fans and the business and politics of big-time college sports. He has degrees from Notre Dame and Washington University in St. Louis.