NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Dry-bulk shipping stocks were mostly higher Tuesday -- in tandem with a surging broader market lifted by positive manufacturing data -- even as dry-bulk freight rates continued a two-week skid.
The world's merchant marine industry -- at least the executive and financier classes of that industry, rather than the knot-tiers and mast-climbers and engine-room denizens -- is still sleeping off its hangover following the end of its biannual trade show in Athens,
. That, combined with the three-day "Dragon Boat" holiday in China, has led to a slackening in chartering activity, some maritime market watchers say.
Further, a months-long logjam in key iron-ore ports in Australia, China and Brazil has eased, said Jeffrey Landsberg, whose Commodore Research advisory shop tracks the dry-bulk cargo market. As traffic congestion in harbors breaks up, more ships are released into the market, increasing supply.
Another thing hurting rates: Iron-ore prices that have declined over the last few weeks, which many investors interpreted as a signal that China's recent moves to tighten credit for fear of a real estate bubble had finally come home to roost.
The going rate for a Capesize vessel, the largest dry-cargo haulers on the oceans, fell to about $37,000 a day Tuesday, down 23% from last week and well below a year ago, when the same type of ship fetched more than $80,000 per day on average, according to the Baltic Exchange, the London-based ship broker.
The firm's overall Baltic Dry Index, which tracks freight rates across a range of dry-bulk-vessel sizes, stood at 3,020 on Tuesday, down 3% from Monday and 15.6% for the week.
The sharp declines come after a heady run-up in rates during the spring. Capesize day rates touched $59,000 on June 2 -- their highest point in 2010. "A year ago, no one thought capes would come close to that level, because of the orderbook," Landsberg said, referring to the huge number of brand-new ships slated to come into service this year from shipyards around the world. Many industry insiders fear that the size of the worldwide fleet will increase and bring freight rates down.
Bullish players -- mostly shipowners or the CEOs of publicly traded shipping companies with stock to sell -- believe that enough of the orderbook will be canceled that vessel supply won't increase enough to hurt rates.
If share prices in the dry-bulk shipping sector are any indication, equities investors don't believe the bullish ship owners. The stocks have underperformed the broader market so far this year. While the S&P 500 is basically flat for 2010, most of the seven largest publicly traded dry-bulk companies by market cap have seen their shares slowly retreat.
Genco Shipping & Trading
has lost 27% of its value (though it's an outlier on the negative side),
-- which has had a rather
energy exploration business -- has dropped 30%.
On Tuesday, all of those stocks were in the green. DryShips paced the gainers, adding 4.2%, while Genco rose 4.1%, and Excel 3.7%. Diana's shares, meanwhile, inched higher by 1%. Navios gained 3.4%, and Safe Bulker 3%.
-- Written by Scott Eden in New York
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.