Dry bulk market "explodes" on higher iron ore demand, JP Morgan raises trade forecasts
After a prolonged period of anticipation and a stalled dry bulk market in terms of freight rates, the industry"s benchmark, the Baltic Dry Index (BDI) rose yesterday by more than 6% on a daily basis to 3,203 points, with analysts unanimous that stronger iron ore demand from China was the key reason. The BDI now stands at its highest level in more than one month, while reports said yesterday that smaller Chinese steel mills began buying iron ore at quarterly prices agreed by Japan and South Korea, in a move that effectively ends the old benchmark system.
In its weekly report, shipbroker BRS (Barry Rogliano Salles) said that South Africa"s Richards Bay terminal confirmed a sharp rise in Asian exports, which rose to 42% of total shipments in the first quarter of this year, up from 25% a year earlier ? due mainly to Chinese and Indian demand. In Europe, Thyssenkrupp became the first European buyer to confirm it had agreed an iron ore price on a quarterly basis. In line with the Japanese contracts, it also reported a 100% price increase, back-dated to April 1. Commenting on the capesize market prospects, BRS said that the market will continue to watch what impact the new, higher commodity prices will have on demand.
According to brokers quoted by Reuters, high congestion at Brazilian ports had also helped drive rates higher, especially for the larger capesize ships. They added that freight derivatives contract buying had added to the positive momentum. Andrew Dawson, a broker with Freight Investor Services was quoted by the agency saying that "it seems to be a combination of a lack of vessels in the Atlantic and also increased demand from the Chinese. It's iron ore that has driven this push." As a result, capesize vessels, typically the main haulers of iron ore were the principal gainers from yesterday"s upward push in the market. Average earnings rose to $35,109, according to the Baltic Exchange.
In a separate report, JP Morgan Chase & Co. raised its previous estimates on global demand for dry bulk commodities, saying that it will expand by 6 percent in 2010, versus its previous forecast of 3.7 percent. On a similar note, JP Morgan said that it expects iron ore trade growth to reach 11.2%, from an earlier prediction of 5.7%, while coal demand will expand by 5.7%, up from the previous estimate of 3.8%. In other words, the investment bank almost doubled its estimates on global dry bulk trade growth, in what could be translated as a pretty strong sign of the industry"s ability to leap out from the crisis and also face with very increased chances the issue of tonnage oversupply.
On that matter, JP Morgan commented that the increased trade will coincide with half the ships that are scheduled to be built this year being delayed or cancelled, as yards in Asia fail to deliver a record order book on time. ?We do not believe that it is even physically possible for the shipyards to meet this robust schedule, with or without financing concerns,? said the report, quoted by Bloomberg. JPMorgan increased its forecasts for what ships will earn as a result by as much as 33 percent. Panamax ships, the largest to sail through the Panama Canal, will average $21,200 a day this year, up from a previous forecast of $16,000, JPMorgan said. Rates for capesizes, were revised up 3.1 percent to $33,000 a day; supramaxes were increased 22 percent to $17,100 a day, and handymaxes will make $14,700, compared with a prior estimate of $12,000, it said.