NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Dry-bulk shipping stocks, suddenly ensign to the white-hot tanker sector's admiral, were mostly lower Friday, retreating from strong gains notched since the beginning of the year.

Spot rates for capesize ships, the largest haulers of dry-bulk cargoes on the Seven Seas, jumped above $42,000 a day Friday, according to the Baltic Exchange, the London shipbroker.

Friday was also evidently a busy day Down Under. Australian iron-ore giant BHP Billiton ( BHP) hired four capesize vessels for journeys to (where else?) China, paying between $12.50 and $12.75 per ton. That's up from the previous going rate of about $12 to $12.50.

Back in the Northern Hemisphere, sell-side analyst Scott Burk of Oppenheimer & Co. released his 2010 shipping preview Friday. Countering the recent trend, Burk favors the shares of dry-bulk shippers to their wet-cargo cousins, at least over the short term.

Tanker stocks have grown overheated, he says, while dry carriers stand to benefit from (who else?) China. The world's largest importer of iron ore will likely need to pay as much as 50% more for that crucial steel ingredient when it eventually strikes its annual contract with mining companies in April.

In the meantime, China will want to take advantage of relatively cheap iron ore prices, stocking up before the coming hike. Dry-bulk shippers, thus, will likely keep plenty busy between now and springtime, Burk says, moving ore to the People's Republic.

The analysts' 2010 preview contained a few other nuggets, including a downgrade of Euroseas' ( ESEA) stock to perform from outperform. Perhaps as a result, shares of the Maroussi, Greece-based shipping concern fell as much as 5.8% Friday, leading the decliners. (Maroussi is a leafy suburb of Athens.)

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