Dry Bulk Winners: Excel, Eagle, DryShips

(Updated to reflect stock prices at the market close.)

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The run-up continues in the dry-bulk shipping industry, though some market participants worry that both shipping rates and the prices of dry-bulk stocks may be approaching a peak.

For the time being, however, strong demand for marine transport services continues to drive rates higher. The Baltic Dry Index, which tracks daily changes on the spot market for vessels of all sizes, surged 6% Wednesday to 4,543. The going daily fee for a capesize ship, the largest bulk carriers in the world, jumped even more, gaining 8% to an average $88,560.

And it looks like those average capesize rates may go higher yet. BHP Billiton ( BHP), the huge Australian miner, booked a few capsizes on Wednesday for voyages to China at $105,000 to $112,000 a day roundtrip, up from $100,000 on Tuesday.

Dry-bulk share prices followed the move in rates again Wednesday, continuing a rally that has captivated the markets since midweek last week. The rally has been strong enough that worriers have emerged to wonder aloud about its sustainability. Martin Korsvold, an analyst at the Norwegian investment bank Pareto Securities, said in a research note Wednesday that "we sensed a higher degree of nervousness yesterday, with fears that the market may have peaked." But, he wrote, "As of yet we do not have any firm evidence of this happening."

Shipping-rate futures (known as forward freight assessments, or FFAs) peg the capesize rate in the first quarter of 2010 at $55,000 per day, which signals, of course, that some people believe that rates will fall. But Korsvold said in his note that if spot-rates hold at present levels over the near term, the futures contracts will need to rise and close the gap. On the other hand, he added, "Equities have been stretched and we expect a broad selloff if the market decides we have peaked."

Leading the advancers this time around was Excel Maritime ( EXM), whose stock leapt more than 14% to the trading day at $8.40 on heavy volume, though that's still down from the year high of $11.70, reached in early June.

Early June is significant, however, since that's the last time spot shipping rates broke through $90,000 a day, pushed higher by avid Chinese raw-materials stockpiling.

Among other big movers to the upside Wednesday, shares of Eagle Bulk Shipping ( EGLE) added more than 10.8% to close the day at $6.75; Euroseas ( ESEA) jumped more than 12.3% to $5.02; and Safe Bulkers ( SB) rose by more than 5.5% to finish at $9.40.

Elsewhere, Genco Shipping & Trading's ( GNK) stock price rose 3.8% to $28.25; Diana Shipping ( DSX) advanced 4.6% to $17.97 and TBS International ( TBSI) picked up almost 4.3% to close the trading day at $8.75.

Notably in the red for much of Wednesday morning were shares of industry fan-favorite DryShips ( DRYS). The stock was down about 1% to $6.99 before rallying into positive territory in afternoon trading Wednesday. Shares of DryShips closed at $7.14, up more than 1.2% from the previous session on heavier-than-average volume.

The company announced the previous evening that it would raise $300 million by offering a series of convertible notes, using the proceeds for its drill-ships business. DryShips also said it would enter into a share-loan agreement with Deutsche Bank and that it was able to achieve another waiver on yet another batch of debt.

Investors have been awaiting an announcement from DryShips that it has inked charter contracts for two drill-vessel newbuildings, which will allow it to secure a $1 billion gap in the financing it requires to pay for the ships. Market players are also hoping for word of an IPO of that drill-ships division.

-- 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.

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