Monday, 26 March 12 WEEKLY DRY MARKET OVERVIEW - MARIA BERTZELETOU, HELLENIC SHIPPING
The Baltic Dry Index follows its upward incline for fourth consecutive week by rising to more than 900 points, up by 37% from the bottom low in the last 26 years of 662 points on February 2nd. Smaller vessel categories, supramax and panamax, are moving higher due to strong fixture activity in both the Atlantic and Pacific basins with capesizes being still under serious pain from hefty overtonnage and fragile Chinese iron ore import market sentiment. Overall, all vessel indices ended in green, apart from capesizes, with supramax and handysize units experiencing the sharpest gain, near to 9% in contrast with a 6.7% rise in the panamax and 6.6% fall in the capesize segment.
The first quarter of the year is about to end with capesize average time charter earnings falling below $5,000/day, while supramax vessels are earning more than $10,000/day and panamax are trading at almost the same levels with handysizes, more than $8,000/day. The BDI seems that will break the psyclological barrier of 1,000 points in the second quarter of the year as it regains strength from the firm demand for coal, grain and minor bulk cargoes. In terms of coal demand, the prospects are overwhelming for Chinese demand as China imported approximately 20.55 million tons of coal in February, 850,000 tons (4%) more than imported in January and an amazing 204% increase from February 2011 levels.
Capesize vessels seem that will suffer for a longer period of time as Chinese inventories remain hefty, despite their fall to 99,4 million tons, 500,000 tons less than a week ago. In addition, China’s government announcement for an economic growth of less than 8% in 2012 pours more uncertainty in the already volatile iron ore market for the massive buying power of the world’s largest iron ore consumer. BHP Billiton is predicting that the growth of seaborne iron trade will amount to little more than 4.4% over the course of this decade, nearly half the 8.4% growth figure achieved between 2000 and 2010.
One positive sign is that China’s daily crude steel output stood at 1,898 million tones for the first ten days of March, surging 13% from the preceding period, according to data from the China Iron & Steel Association. Steel demand has started to pick up in the world’s top consumer during March amid a gradual recovery in construction activity, but buyers remain wary about a slowdown in economic growth, which may continue to weigh on the steel sector. “Steel demand is warming up as more construction projects resume, but it is still weaker than the corresponding period of last year,” said a steel trader in Beijing.
Fears for the negative impact of last week’s tropical cyclone on the capesize segment have gone as shipping operations at the major Australia’s Port Hedland have now resumed. However, capesize vessels lost more ground this week with average time charter earrings falling to the lowest levels for over a year. The BCI has lost 97 points on a weekly basis by standing at 1,369 points, 6.6% down from previous week’s closing with vessels trading at levels of $$4,546/day, when last year were earning more than $10,000/day. Capesize spot rates on Australia to China have dropped to $7.45 per tonne, which shows a return of about $1,500/day for 180,000 dwt tons capesize vessel.
In the panamax segment, South American grain demand remains the key driver force, with BPI posting a 6.7% rise by gaining 65 points more than previous week and vessel earnings moving to more than $8,000/day. But, panamax earnings are still far below than last year’s levels, when there were more than $16,000/day, as they are facing the same headache with capesize vessels, the pain of oversupply.
Supramax and handysize units are on the spotlight as being the star performers from March 2nd by showing continuous weekly increases. The BSI ended at 1035 points last Friday, showing a 39% rise from the beginning of March with vessels earning more than $10,000/day, 35% lower than last year’s levels. The BHSI ended at 551 points, 26% up from the beginning of March with vessels earning more than $8,000/day, 29% less than last year.
Amid the volatile Chinese iron ore import market sentiment and the negative forecasts for a slow Chinese economic growth, Australia expects to produce record tonnages of iron ore through much of the decade, nearly all of which will be used to manufacture steel in demand. Australia iron ore exports are estimated to increase by more than 50 percent by 2016/17 compared with last year. Government data release anticipates still strong demand from Chinese steel mills, the biggest buyers. Exports will rise by an annual rate of around 11 percent to reach 767 m million tonnes in 2016/17, the Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics (BREE) predicted.
Rio Tinto, the world’s second largest iron ore producer, said that it plans to boost the output from its mines in Australia western Pilbara to 283 million tonnes per year by the second half of 2013, up from the current 225 million tonnes. David Joyce, managing director of expansion projects, said that although the rate of GDP growth in China is slowing, they remain confident on the basis of the figures that they have seen for a solid growth this year. A positive development for the fate of capesize operators is that Chinese steel demand has started to pick up amid a gradual recovery in construction activity.
Although the negative sentiment that currently persists in Chinese iron ore market, with worries for a long last recession in the world’s largest consumer country, big miners are betting on a soft landing for the world’s second biggest economy. It is believed that China’s import demand would continue to grow over the next several years, albeit at a slower pace, which should be enough reason for commodity producers to continue their expansion plans. “Nobody is saying that demand growth in China for iron ore is going to go away, just that growth rates will not be as high as they were,” said Mike Young, managing director of BC Iron, which relies on sales to China for all its revenue. Furthermore, recent investigations by Raw Materials Group revealed that global iron ore demand is set to double to around 3.5 billion tones per year by 2030, with Chinese appetite for the commodity continuing to drive the market, albeit at a slower pace than during the last decade. Source: Maria Bertzeletou, Hellenic Shipping
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