(Updated for closing stock prices.)
NEW YORK (
) -- A chart of dry-bulk shipping rates in 2009 resembles a seismograph after an earthquake, and that volatile status quo will likely continue next year, one shipping stock analyst said in a research note Friday.
Over the course of the past year, day rates for capesize ships sank as low as $5,000 in January and soared as high as $100,000 in November, cratering with the financial crisis and the recession, and peaking on the back of frantic Chinese demand for raw materials.
According to Greg Lewis of
, who came out with a 2010 industry outlook Friday, the
will be responsible for the coming volatility: China and an
As far as how it will all wash out by the end of 2010, Lewis wrote that he expects rates to fall by roughly 5% to 10% compared with the 2009 average, with the year starting off stronger than many people expect, spurred by Chinese demand for iron ore, but ending weakly as the full force of all those new ships knocks the supply-demand balance out of whack.
Next year, Lewis expects China to ease back on the iron-ore import throttle a bit. Whereas ore imports by steelmakers in the People's Republic grew by a staggering 35% in 2009, Lewis sees growth of 8% to 10% in 2010.
Lewis' favorite dry-bulk stocks include
, all three of which he rates as outperform.
This week, as 2009 winds down, shipping rates continued to weaken, following a recent trend. Capesize day rates on the spot market fell 8% Friday to $45,458. That's down sharply from the more than $53,000 per day that the cargo haulers were fetching last week.
, the giant Australian iron-ore miner, booked two capesize ships for voyages to China at $12.50 and $12.75 a ton, down from $13.50 earlier in the week, according to Omar Nokta, a research analyst at Dahlman Rose in New York.
Rates for all vessel classes have declined of late, though not as severely as those for capesizes, the largest dry-bulk haulers in existence.
Eagle Bulk Shipping
, which took delivery of a new supramax vessel Friday, booked the ship on a long-term charter at $18,850 a day. On the spot market, the going rate for a supramax Friday was $24,274, down more than 4% from last week.
The softening trend comes amid enormous port congestion, Nokta added in a research note -- the most severe congestion, in fact, since 2007, as Chinese demand for thermal coal (the stuff used by power plants) from Australia, which is apparently cheaper of late than Chinese domestic coal.
U.S.-listed dry-bulk stocks ended mostly lower Friday. Shares of DryShips fell four cents cents to $6.02 and Diana lost eight cents to $14.90; Safe Bulkers, one of the few gainers during the session, rose seven cents to $8.25.
Elsewhere, shares of
Genco Shipping and Trading
moved lower by 2.5% to $22.10;
retreated 0.7% to $5.83; Eagle Bulk Shipping lost 1.4% to $5.01; and
was unchanged from the previous session at $6.38.
-- Written by Scott Eden in New York
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Scott Eden has covered business -- both large and small -- for more than a decade. Prior to joining TheStreet.com, he worked as a features reporter for Dealmaker and Trader Monthly magazines. Before that, he wrote for the Chicago Reader, that city's weekly paper. Early in his career, he was a staff reporter at the Dow Jones News Service. His reporting has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Men's Journal, the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times, and the Believer magazine, among other publications. He's also the author of Touchdown Jesus (Simon & Schuster, 2005), a nonfiction book about Notre Dame football fans and the business and politics of big-time college sports. He has degrees from Notre Dame and Washington University in St. Louis.