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Weekly dry bulk digest: Fundamentals show bullish light (Part 5)

Xun Yao Chen, Industrials Analyst

Continued from Part 4

Supply and demand drives dry bulk shipping companies

Although an analysis of demand is necessary in order to project future dry bulk shipping rates, imports data aren’t widely available on a weekly basis. However, shipping rates, which reflect the difference in demand and supply, are collected on a daily basis at the London-based Baltic Exchange and published as the Baltic Dry Indexes (BDI). These indexes reflect the daily shipping rates to transport raw materials such as iron ore, coal, and grain across the ocean in the spot market. When demand outpaces supply growth, shipping rates tend to rise. But when an increase in supply doesn’t meet with demand, shipping rates fall. 1

(Read more: 7 points that reflect tanker fundamentals say recovery isn’t looming (Part 2))

Baltic rates fall

Last week, the overall Baltic dry index was dragged down by Panamax and Capesize vessels, which fell from 1,172 to 1,104 and 1,987 to 1,873, respectively. Aside from the lower capacity growth we saw in Part 4, shipping rates have risen lately—mostly because of increased iron ore import to China, which makes up more than 20% of the world’s total dry bulk trade. A record-low inventory figure of ~57 million tons in March (a figure unseen for three years) and a fall of ~$40 per metric tonne (28%) since the government began tightening the property market in February are enticing traders to import more iron ore. Capesize vessels, which primarily haul major bulk materials such as iron ore and coal, have benefited most.

(Read more: 7 points that reflect tanker fundamentals say recovery isn’t looming (Part 3))


Iron ore prices

But as iron ore prices have risen back to where they were a few months ago, traders may refrain from importing much iron ore. The recent weakness in iron ore prices either reflects lower demand or an increase in supply from Australia and Brazil (see last week’s update). So far, it looks like the current weakness in the dry bulk shipping index is being driven by lower demand.

While shipping rates could fall further in the near-term due to weaker demand, which could negatively affect share prices companies such as Diana Shipping Inc. (DSX), Navios Maritime Partners LP (NMM), Eagle Bulk Shipping Inc. (EGLE), Knightsbridge Tankers Ltd. (VLCCF), and Safe Bulkers Inc. (SB), increased iron ore supplies from Australia and Brazil, which keeps iron ore prices low, and low inventories in China may be just what the industry needs toward the end of the year.

Learn more about the key performance indicators of the dry bulk shipping industry

(Read more: Why the Baltic Dry Index has decoupled from the Chinese market)

Continue to Part 6: Forward contracts for the most exciting developments last week, or go back to Part 1 to see the list of key shipping indicators.

  1. The two main revenue generation models in the shipping industry are spot (voyage) and time (period) charters. “Spot charters” refer to the one-time price of shipping a specific amount of raw material, while “time charters” reflect the price of borrowing a ship’s service for a specific period. “Time Charter Equivalent” (TCE), which converts spot charters (specified in $ per ton) to time charter rates ($ per day), is often used to compare companies in different markets. The two often mirror each other over the medium and long terms.

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