LUXEMBOURG ( TheStreet) -- ArcelorMittal ( MT), the world's biggest steelmaker, made some ambiguous pronouncements regarding a recovery in the global economy -- and thus its business -- in an otherwise dismal second-quarter report issued Wednesday.

In a press-release statement, the company's chairman and CEO, the Anglo-Indian billionaire Lakshmi Mittal, called the first half of 2009, "the most challenging the steel industry has ever experienced."

But he went on to say that "in recent weeks" the company has "started to see some initial signs of recovery." He didn't go into any details other than to say that, based on those signs, ArcelorMittal plans to re-start production at some of its mills.

Mittal's words appeared ameliorative. He said the company expects "gradual improvement" during the second half of the year "with full recovery remaining slow and progressive."

But later, in a conference call to discuss the results with analysts and investors, Mittal seemed a little less optimistic, almost contradicting his statement in the press release.

"We were at a very low level of economic performance ... (so) to reach the pre-crisis level it will not be before 2011," Mittal said during the call, according to Reuters.

On Tuesday, US Steel made some similar remarks : business stunk in the first half of the year. But a pop in orders for flat-rolled steel, the material used in cars and kitchen appliances, has caused it to increase capacity at some of its mills.

Many industry watchers are wary, though. The recent jump in demand has been seen as a kind of fool's gold, the result of China's massive stimulus package and, perhaps more importantly, a natural reaction to the fact that steel stocks had fallen so low amid the recession -- a process known as destocking.

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