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Oil Tanker Stocks Surge on Suez Risk

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Oil tanker shares were soaring as the political turmoil in Egypt triggered speculation that the Suez Canal might be shut down.

If that happens, ships will need to circumnavigate Africa. The longer voyages would lift worldwide oil-tanker rates. The last time the canal was shut down -- during the 1973 Arab-Israeli War -- shipping rates went through the roof.

Shares of General Maritime (GMR), the most beaten down of tanker names, gained the most ground Friday, adding 10% to $3.20 on heavy volume. Genmar, which had levered up in the summer to make a big ship acquisition, had struggled with that debt in recent months.

Elsewhere, Frontline (FRO - Get Report) was jumping 8% to $27.05, Overseas Shipholding (OSG) was adding 5% to $34.12, and Nordic American Tanker (NAT - Get Report) was rising by 2.4% to $24.65.

Even shares of DryShips (DRYS - Get Report) -- which, as its name indicates, operates dry-bulk ships -- gained ground Friday. The company also operates a small fleet of oil-exploration ships, which it has long been planning to spin off in an IPO.

Meanwhile, the companies that ship dry bulk cargoes across the oceans - iron ore, coal and grain, for example - were mostly in the red, yet again. That's because rates for their services sank even lower Friday amid a burgeoning glut of new ships that has its origins in the last boom era, before the financial crisis.

Now, the largest such dry-bulk ships in the world, the iron-ore haulers known as Capesize vessels, officially reached collapse territory, eliciting more bearish calls on dry-bulk shipping stocks from sell-side analysts Friday.

According to the Baltic Exchange, a London ship broker that tracks such things, day rates for a Capesize ship, the biggest dry-bulk freighters in the world, fell to nearly $6,000 on Friday, as quoted on the spot market. That means that shipping companies are likely losing money on any vessel they hire out at such rates. The cost of operating a capesize vessel comes to $7,000 to $10,000 a day, according to industry experts.

By comparison, Capesize vessels were fetching more than $40,000 a day just three months ago and $80,000 in mid-2009.
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