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Speaking at this week’s Steel Success Strategies conference in Istanbul, Hamilton said China’s demand for steel declined in 2012, especially in the manufacturing, shipbuilding, and mining sectors.

Total growth was below 2%, he noted. It was 14% in 2010, and 9% in 2011.

The country’s steel demand will increase by 4% in 2013 then hold stable at that growth rate until 2015, Hamilton forecast.

Chinese cycles turn quickly, he said, driving moves in the wider steel market.

“Sentiment at small mills in China can have a dramatic effect on global steel markets, particularly through iron ore,” Hamilton said. He noted that iron ore inventories increased in China in the last quarter of 2012, in line with prices.

For all the raw material cost moves, margins have remained relatively consistent over the past few years from 2008 to 2013, he concluded.