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Wednesday, 13 October 21
MARKET INSIGHT - INTERMODAL
IntermodalFollowing up on our insight on May 2021, where we discussed about the Capesize market outlook for the second half of the year, we are pleased to see that dry bulk Q4 high seasonality has returned after at least 3 years of underperformance, driving also the Q4’21 and Q1’22 FFA curve to multi year highs. Back in May, we had explained why we thought a higher Cape market peak during 2H2021 was in the cards, with fundamentals recently being boosted by accelerating restocking demand, near record high Capesize congestion at Pacific discharge ports and a global energy supply deficit leading to scrambling for coal supplies globally. In the present insight, we are briefly addressing some of the market points that are likely to impact the direction of freight rates looking forward.
 
Iron Ore restocking to be in full swing during Q4 regardless of China’s crude steel production contraction. Q1 2022 Risks: Slow-down in construction during winter and in view of China’s Winter Olympics, exacerbated by high energy costs. China’s property developers slowing down land purchases amid deleveraging efforts  
 
The primary force behind the crude steel production decline in the short term is the severe coking coal /coke and power shortage forcing crude steel production to adjust downwards.  Cuts are expected to intensify from November 15th to the end of the year as a 1st stage and then through March 2022, as per government’s pledges. Even if most of the targeted steel production cuts materializes through Sep-Dec 2021, probabilities that they will immediately translate into a decline in iron ore requirements are low, as 1) the iron ore restocking process is directly connected to iron ore seaborne supplies which are the strongest during Q4 – the decline in iron ore prices from multi year highs in May 2021 is currently facilitating the restocking process  supporting the purchasing power of steel mills – steel mills margins remain strong due to the diverging trends in steel and iron ore prices, despite the surge in coking coal costs 2) Skyrocketing energy costs are likely to negatively impact more the scrap related steel production process during the quarter (Electric Arc Furnaces are higher energy consumers) vs Blast Furnaces (more iron ore requirements).  When iron ore restocking will be completed, this will be a negative signal for new iron ore procurement, likely during the 1H2022. On this note, iron ore inventories at China’s ports have increased by +9.2 million tons since the end of Q2 and there is more room for them to inflate further by the end of the year.
 
Inflationary pressures on the energy complex supportive to dry bulk freight rates in the short-term. Q1 2022 Risks: La Nina conditions might bring a colder winter supporting coal consumption but also wetter conditions in Australia from December to April increasing risks of exports disruptions  
 
Natural gas prices have raised the price ceiling higher for the whole energy complex and while international coal prices have hit record high levels, the price gap with natural gas continues to incentivize substitution in power generation globally and Europe particularly. The competition for securing coal supplies in both basins has inflated $ per ton freight across major coal routes to 12-year highs – which we think is sustainable - as the % of freight in coal prices is still low (approx. 13%) compared to 2009-2010 (approx. 22%).
 
China’s domestic coal output is expected to increase in the next months on a series of government measures to boost supplies, although the incremental volumes during Q4 are not expected to be sufficient to cover the supply deficit. The continuous decline in coal inventories at major power plants and expectations for a cold winter continue to indicate increasing thermal coal import needs for restocking in the winter heating season. Demand for coal imports is further enhanced by India’s urgency to restock as inventories at power plants have dropped to the lowest level since 2017 at 7.3 million tons but at a record low in terms of days of consumption i.e. just 4 days, as per latest data from India’s Central Electricity Authority.
 
High bunker prices are supportive to dry bulk freight rates as we had discussed in our May insight, likely to exacerbate fleet inefficiencies across the basins, with the Atlantic expected to benefit more in the short term. Talks about demand destruction from high oil prices will be substantiated when manufacturers’ profitability and consumers’ purchasing power starts to be negatively impacted with costs curves rising upwards. This is likely to take place at higher prices than the current $80/bbl in our view and those would have to be sustained during the quarter.
By Tamara Apostolou, Research Director

Compiled by:
Intermodal Research & Valuations


Analysts:
Yiannis Parganas
Tamara Apostolou

Disclaimer and legal disclosure: For any further queries please do not hesitate to contact our Research & Valuations Department. The information contained in this report has been obtained from various sources, as reported in the market. Intermodal Shipbrokers Co. believes such information to be factual and reliable without making guarantees regarding its accuracy or completeness. Whilst every care has been taken in the production of the above review, no liability can be accepted for any loss or damage incurred in any way whatsoever by any person who may seek to rely on the information and views contained in this material. This report is being produced for the internal use of the intended recipients only and no reproducing is allowed, without the prior written authorization of Intermodal Shipbrokers Co.
 
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