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Why ship orders reflect a green light for dry bulk companies

Xun Yao Chen

Why dry bulk shipping shares will rise after a recent fall (Part 2 of 6)

(Continued from Part 1)

Managers remains optimistic

From September 6 to 13, we saw ship orders rise for Capesize vessels while orders for Panamax and Supramax vessels fell. The number of Capesize ships on order as a share of existing vessels rose again at a rate of 1.89%, from 10.33% to 10.53%. Panamax and Supramax ships, however, fell by 0.45% and 0.06%, respectively. Analysts use a percent of existing vessels because it adjusts for changes in the number of ships over time.

Dry Bulk Vessels on Order 2013-09-16

Takeaway of ship orders

The number of ships on order reflects managers’ expectations of future supply and demand differences. When they expect future supply to increase more than demand, managers will refrain from purchasing new ships. However, when they expect demand to outpace supply growth, companies return to the shipyard to place new orders, on the condition that they expect to generate profits with the new vessels. So rising or high levels of ship orders often indicate that shipping rates will rise. Since dry bulk ships usually take one to two years to construct, the indicator is often more relevant to long-term investment horizons.

Long-term trend turning around

Backlogs of new ship constructions have been turning around since the start of the year, with Capesize vessels showing the most stabilization. While it looked like Supramax orders would start turning around at the start of 2013, the indicator continued to slump since April. This is a possible negative if the decline wasn’t due to increased construction activity—highlighting the need to look at several indicators to get a picture of what’s happening in the industry.

Managers are likely reluctant to significantly add new orders to Panamax vessels, as we’ve seen during the week September 9 to 13, because current orders remain elevated, a negative. But the increase we’ve seen since May (along with orders in Capesize vessels) is quite positive. Higher shipments of iron ore from Australia and Brazil are currently driving rates higher, which is likely to carry through towards winter—typically a strong season for Capesize vessels, as iron ore shipments from the southern half of the Earth rise and Chinese mines close. We could also see some upside for Panamax vessels due to lower supply growth and higher grain shipments later this year, as the USDA currently projects a record output of crops.

Implication for shipping companies

Although orders have fallen for some vessels, the turnaround in orders—or the steadier decline in orders—points towards lower supply growth ahead and suggests that industry profitability should normalize over the next few months and years. This is long-term positive for dry bulk shippers like DryShips Inc. (DRYS), Diana Shipping Inc. (DSX), Navios Maritime Partners LP (NMM), Navios Maritime Holdings Inc. (NM), and Safe Bulkers Inc. (SB).

Continue to Part 3

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