Dry-bulk freight rates may rise after record fall
Shipping costs for iron ore, coal and other commodities may rise after a record drop last week, boosted by demand for larger bulk carriers ahead of the Chinese New Year holidays next month.
The Baltic Dry Index, an overall measure of commodity- shipping costs on different routes and ship sizes, slumped 19 per cent last week to 6,462 points, a level last seen in July 2007, based on data from the London-based Baltic Exchange.
The measure has fallen the past seven weeks. Bulk-shipping rates have slumped 42 per cent from a record in November amid delays in annual price talks between Chinese steelmakers and iron-ore producers and concern that the US and Chinese economies are slowing.
Iron ore supplies slumped after Cia Vale do Rio Doce, the world's biggest producer, and Rio Tinto Group, the second-largest exporter, said shipments were disrupted.
'Rates have been dropping for too long, and hence we saw a bounce in capesize rates on Friday,' T C Chang, head of research at TMT Co, a diversified Taiwanese shipping company, said by phone from Taipei. 'This week, the market may stabilise. Demand is still there, but it's just that the iron ore price negotiations are pending.'
Cia Vale do Rio Doce, Rio Tinto Group and BHP Billiton Ltd, which account for three-quarters of global iron-ore trade, began talks in November with Chinese steelmakers to set benchmark contract prices for 2008.
The hiring rate for a capesize, which can haul 175,000 tons of cargo, rose 2.9 per cent, the first increase this year, to an average US$85,372 on Jan 18, based on data from the Baltic Exchange. The rate has fallen 44 per cent this year.
Chartering a panamax, which can transport 70,000 tons of cargo, dropped 1.1 per cent to an average US$54,017 on Jan 18. The decline was the smallest since Jan 9.