NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- A raft of economic information out of China Friday had implications for the direction of the dry-bulk shipping industry, and investors and market watchers were picking through the data.
Though on the surface the November figures, compiled by China's National Bureau of Statistics, once again showed vigorous growth for the world's third-largest economy, dry-bulk bears and bulls could both find evidence for their respective positions as the market
For instance: Chinese industrial output in November surged by 19.2% compared with a year ago, above the 18.2% expected by analysts, according to a
Of most interest to the shipping companies and their investors, however, were data from the Chinese steel industry -- by far the largest in the world, responsible for more than half of global steel production. China's importation of iron ore for its steel foundries is, more and more, what keeps the dry-bulk industry afloat.
rose to a higher level than at any other point during an already record-breaking 2009, climbing to 2.87 million tons, up from October's 2.71 million tons.
For the bulls, the data indicates that the Chinese economy is clipping along, poised to achieve that 9% GDP growth that many market watchers are forecasting for 2010.
For the bears, the pace of that growth could mean that fears of a bubble are percolating over in Beijing, which could convince China's finance ministers to tighten monetary policy, which would curb growth, which could mean a slower pace of iron-ore consumption by the big steel mills (mills that have so far ignored Beijing's warnings about their manic output), which would, of course, lead to lighter demand for the gigantic dry-bulk carriers that move said ore across the oceans.
Already, Chinese steel production has slowed a bit, at least in terms of month-to-month comparisons. According to Friday's data, estimates for November daily steel output come to 1.58 million tons, below October's 1.67 million tons.
When considering the prospects for the dry-trade shipping industry next year, everyone is looking east to China, but also to the delivery schedules of an
With these two supply-demand wildcards in mind, we asked readers of
earlier this week to
that they believe will perform the best in 2010.
We offered up a selection of six candidates and, once again, the controversial
took home the trophy, claiming 39% of the vote. Survey-takers must be eyeing the company's much-discussed drill-ships scheme, which many believe will end in an IPO. Or perhaps they're attuned to the fact that DryShips stock has massively underperformed its brethren year-to-date (after a series of highly dilutive stock offerings to help pay down debt) has investors believing that the stock is ready for a break out.
In second place was conservative
, with 25.7% of the vote. Diana is know for its clean balance sheet; many believe it has the liquidity to acquire ships and expand its fleet just about whenever it wants to.
The other four companies all ended the race in tight order.
Eagle Bulk Shipping
was in third, with 11.8% of the vote.
Genco Shipping & Trading
(6.5%) rounded out the rest.
-- 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.