‘Frothy’ Capesize Sector Threatens New Year Hangover for Dry Bulk

Maritime Activity Reports, Inc.

November 21, 2016

Photo: BSM

Photo: BSM

Maritime Strategies International (MSI) is forecasting a firm festive season for the dry bulk market, swiftly followed by a New Year comedown.


In its latest Dry Bulk Freight Forecaster* MSI notes that after a steady fall in average daily TCE spot earnings in October, November saw an inflection point for Capesizes, with rates soaring to over $16,000/day, the highest since mid-2015. Some of this strength has translated to the Panamax market, although Supramax and Handysize earnings have been broadly unaffected.
A basket of key commodity prices - notably iron ore, coking and steam coal - have surged dramatically in recent weeks, with falls in domestic supplies in China a key driver. This trend is forecast to continue through Q4 but weaker iron ore and coal trade will impact Capesize and Panamax demand in the near term, according to MSI Senior Analyst Will Fray.
“The Capesize market is demonstrating what might be termed 'frothy' characteristics with patches of strong chartering despite weak underlying fundamentals. On this basis it is difficult to build a reliable view on how long this freight rate uptick will last, but in any case we expect spot rates to fall back below operating costs in the New Year. This will be mainly as a result of weaker iron ore trade in Q1, but by Q2 we expect to see stronger Chinese coal production limiting coal import requirements.”
The MSI outlook for the Panamax market will be impacted by weaker coal demand to India, an effect magnified by the significant proportion of imports carried in Panamax vessels. Some improvement is expected towards the end of this year, but spot earnings are forecast to drop back again in early 2017 to below $6,000/day, with barely any improvement into Q2.
The New Year is also likely to see rates fall in the Handysize sector, partly due to expectations of strong Ultramax deliveries in Q1. However MSI's forecast of $6,000/day in January and $7,300/day in April is broadly positive, particularly when compared with the MSI outlook for Capesize and Panamax markets.
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