Crude steel production in North America was 5.8% higher in the first eight months of 1998 than it was during the same period last year, according to the International Iron and Steel Institute's monthly report. This increase is the largest of any region for that time span. The Middle East suffered the greatest decline in the first eight months over year-earlier figures. Crude steel production there reached 5.5 million metric tons, down 13.4%. The region comprising the countries of the former Soviet Union showed the second greatest decline in year-on-year figures: Crude steel production there dipped 8.1% from year-earlier figures. Looking at the United States specifically, steel production echoes the North American regional data, showing a 5.8% increase over year-earlier results for the first eight months. Production in the U.S. reached 8.4 million metric tons in August, up from 8 million metric tons in July and 4.9% higher than production in the same month last year. August production in Canada dipped slightly from the previous month, but that country's eight-month figures for 1998 show a 6.8% gain over year-earlier figures. Elsewhere, Japan's crude steel production reached 7.7 million metric tons in August, a minuscule increase over its July production. For the first eight months of 1998, however, crude steel production is down 10.3% from the same period in 1997, and the country's August steel production is more than 11% below production in August 1997.