BEIJING ( TheStreet) -- The World Steel Association said Monday that steel consumption in the industrialized world won't be as weak as it thought.

In its twice-annual report, the trade group said it now believes that global steel use will decline by 8.6% in 2009 compared with a year ago. Back in April, the association had predicted a 14.5% drop.

(The numbers refer to what Worldsteel, as the group is known, calls "apparent steel use," or the metal that's delivered to buyers directly from foundries. "Real steel use," by contrast, takes into account steel drawn down from existing inventory stockpiles.)

"The improvement is largely due to the exceptionally strong growth in steel demand in China," the report said.

The group also predicted that worldwide demand for steel will grow by 9.2% in 2010, which would put the globe's steel consumption back on equal footing with 2008 levels.

In a statement, the chairman of the association's economics committee, Daniel Novegil, said, "The global recovery is stronger than we predicted in April."

Once again, though, the prime mover is China. The group said that, according to its data, China's demand for steel will likely grow by 19% in 2009 and 5% in 2010.

Recovery in North America will come more slowly, according to the report, with a demand decline of 35.8% in 2009 before a rebound of 17% in 2010.

Steel stocks were mixed Monday morning. Shares of U.S. Steel ( X - Get Report) slipped 1.3% to $43.27, while Korean steelmaker Posco ( PKX - Get Report) saw its New York-listed issues fall 1% to $106.20.

Elsewhere, though, stocks were modestly in the green Monday morning. Arcelor Mittal's ( MT - Get Report) shares gained 1.6% in New York trading; Nucor ( NUE - Get Report) shares added 0.4%; Steel Dynamics ( STLD - Get Report) gained 1.5%, and AK Steel ( AKS - Get Report) rose 0.3%.

-- 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.