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 turns its gaze toward 2010. 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 Bloomberg survey. 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. Steel exports in November 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.
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