The current sentiment in the dry market resembles memories from the end of 2008, when the Baltic Dry Index closed at the level of 663 points on December 5th, 2008 .The first day of February commenced with the BDI closing at 662 points, the lowest level that the market has seen in the last 26 years and ongoing fears for the operational profitability of dry bulk players for the year ahead. During the last week, the BDI showed
an upward trend by gaining for four consecutive days more than 10 points, but it is still trading below the psychological barrier of 1,000 points mark. Overall, the BDI closed on Friday of February 10th at 715 points, up by 10.5% from last week’s closing, with the panamax size outperforming over other vessel categories. All vessel sizes apart from handysizes showed upward movements from the trading bottom lows that hit shipping operators during the last days of January. The BPI showed a remarkable 39.5% week-on-week increase in contrast with a 4.1% week-on-week fall in the BHSI.
For large size vessels, capesizes, conditions remain very weak with the market needing more cargo input to absorb the oversupply headache. The Baltic Capesize Index remained almost stable, up by 1% week-on-week, by gaining 21 points from previous week, by closing at 1457 points with activity in the Atlantic market being slow from very limited cargo demand, while interest from Brazil to China is scarce. The heavy weather in the ports of Australia and Brazil, the main iron ore producers, along with the Chinese ban on the entrance of Vale’s mega very large ore capes into Chinese ports have created more downward pressure in the already fragile market given the slow Chinese steel activity during Chinese New Year.
The panamax market seems to be the first one that has shown strong signs of recovery from the end of Chinese holidays with the sentiment being improved for Atlantic traders and a flurry of period activity from firm South American demand. The BPI closed at 967 points, up 274 points, recording a remarkable increase from previous week and showing healthier average time charter earnings. For supramax vessels, condition in the Atlantic market is still in the doldrums with some improvement reported in the Pacific market. The BSI showed a better performance than capesizes by moving 6% higher than previous week and hopes for a firmer rebound in the following days. The BHSI lost 16 points by recording a 4% week-on-week decline as it seems that the large percentage of overaged vessels in this category has started to stress the market significantly and more intense scrapping activity is needed.
Will the BDI continue its upward movement? Will capesizes find a firmer support? The iron ore demand and China’s economic activity are the two key factors for the revival of dry operators.
BHP Billiton, the world's no. 3 iron ore miner, said in Reuters that fundamentals for iron ore demand remain strong, with Chinese steel making expected to pick up following the lunar New Year and with Indian iron ore supplies lagging expectations. Furthermore, Anglo American’s Kumba Iron Ore CEO Chris Griffith said that global iron ore demand is likely to improve over the medium-to-long term. Global demand for iron-ore would remain dependent on steel manufacturing in China, which accounted for more than two-thirds of demand, but which had had a relatively subdued second half during 2011. The JSE-listed miner held a positive view on the market from the second half of 2012. But over the first six months of 2012, the iron-ore market was expected to maintain its current market conditions. Zhu Hongreng, Chief Engineer of Ministry of industry and Information Technology of PRC, pointed out that China steel industry is to encounter tougher challenging in 2012 due to heightened unbalance between supply and demand arising from dwindling demand and further squeezed profit margin of domestic steel mills on rising iron ore prices.
However, the economic activity of China gives weak signs and brings some uncertainty regarding the Chinese import and export market sentiment. According to Custom’s Administration, China’s exports is estimated that dipped by 0.5% from a year earlier, the first decline in more than two years, raising fresh concerns about the impact of a global slowdown on its economy. Imports fell by 15.3%, resulting in a trade surplus of $27.3bn (£17bn) which was a six-month high. Analysts said while the closure of establishments during the Chinese New Year affected the numbers, the decline could not be attributed to the festival alone.They said that the bigger-than-expected drop, especially in imports, was worrying as it gave an indication of slowing growth. A fall of over 15% in January cannot be entirely explained by the lunar calendar, and adds weight to the view that economic output is slower than headline indicators might suggest
The China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing reported that the import index for January fell to 46.9 from 49.3 in the previous month, showing slowing demand at home. Despite these numbers, analysts said the dip was likely to be short-lived and imports may start to rise in the coming months.
Even the latest statistics data reveal a strong impact of the debt crisis on China’s trading activity; we will wait to see what the first quarter of the year will bring since January data usually give a distorted picture.
Source: Maria Bertzeletou, Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide