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Dry Bulk Market: Uncertainty The Biggest Concern Hindering a Rebound

The demise of the dry bulk market has been more than evident over the course of the past few months, with a series of events worsening the market’s fundamentals. As such, a sustainable recovery will take some time. In its latest weekly report, shipbroker Allied Shipbroking said that it has been “undoubtedly a very troubled year for the dry bulk market. At the end of 2018, we were noting strong levels of optimism and bullish sentiment for the year that lay ahead, especially when given the overall recovery that had been noted in 2018 and 2017, whilst most core index figures finished at relatively good levels. Given these positive trends, for most, 2019 was set to also be a year of general upward momentum, inline somehow with the perceived perception that fundamentals were still improving and there would be more balanced and sustainable dynamics witnessed in the market. Even for those that held a more conservative view as to how things would transpire, few would have called the steepness of the downward correction noted, the increased volatility or the continuous shifts in sentiment that characterize the current market”.

According to Mr. Thomas Chasapis, Research Analyst with Allied Shipbroking, “after more than 3 months of being stuck in the doldrums, with volatility rising for the first quarter of this year by 178% compared to the same time frame back in 2018 (using standard deviation), we finally saw the BDI pass above the 1,000 basis point mark once more (a point last held at the end of January). Even if you consider this recovery to be momentary and driven mainly by the recovery noted in the Capesize segment, it still represents a huge “breather” for the overall dry sector”.

Chasapis added that “taking this last point, it is interesting to see the BCI trends of late in more detail. The BCI timecharter average closed on Friday at US$ 11,182/day, while just a month prior, it had reached its lowest level (since 2016) of 3,460 US$/day, as such placing the recovery gain in the region of 223% in almost 1 month. If this doesn’t sound so impressive, the BCI index made an even more impressive jump, going from a low point of 92 basis points at the very start of April, up to 1,290 points (14 times higher!). Furthermore, adding a taste of forward sentiment coming through the paper market, a considerable boost was noted not only for FFA contracts for this year, but also for the calendar years of 2020 and 2021”.

“Notwithstanding this, there is still a fair bit of road ahead before we start witnessing any sort of rebalancing in this segment. The turmoil derived from the Vale incident a few months back continues to shake the market, while now, given that most parties involved are now in the process of adapting to the new market realities, we can expect huge levels of volatility and asymmetries for the rest of the year (at least). Moreover, even if we assume an increase in demand for iron ore in the near term and that it will be absorbed completely by the other main exporters (such as Australia), we will still be left with a tremendous gap in tonne-miles which will continue to add an excessive amount of negative pressure on freight rates”, Chasapis said.

Allied’s analyst cnocluded that “all-in-all, while leaving aside the rather mediocre state being portrayed right now in the dry bulk sector in terms of earnings, the point that troubles most is the overall feeling of uncertainty surrounding the market. Moreover, given a potential 25% levy to be imposed in US imports from China by this Friday as mentioned by President Trump’s tweets on Sunday, it is obvious that we will continue to face random and unpredictable shocks, with tremendous consequences to the overall state of the freight market. With all being said, even under good and strong fundamentals (i.e. balanced supply-demand dynamics), it is very difficult at this point to make any confident assumptions as to what direction the market will take next, even on a short-term basis”.
Nikos Roussanoglou, Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide

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