Baltic index continues losing streak; seen bottoming out

Wed Jul 20, 2011 12:38pm EDT

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* Capesizes fall on weak West Australia-China benchmark

* Decline in overall index slowing

By Krishna Das

BANGALORE, July 20 (Reuters) - The Baltic Exchange's main sea freight index , which tracks rates to ship dry commodities, remained negative for the ninth straight session on Wednesday as trading stayed subdued and a West Australia to China benchmark weakened.

The index -- which gauges the cost of shipping commodities such as iron ore, cement, grain, coal and fertiliser -- fell 2 points, or 0.15 percent, to 1,328 points. The overall index has traded between 1,300-1,500 points this year, coming under pressure as ship oversupply outpaces demand.

"West Australia to China was down 2.6 percent. That specific benchmark route hurt the (capesize index)," an analyst said. "As decline is slowing, the overall index is kind of bottoming here. But there is still less cargo hitting the water."

Dry bulk vessel congestion at Australian, Brazilian, Indian and Chinese ports has risen to its highest since the beginning of the year, and is now equivalent to over 10 percent of the entire bulk fleet, ICAP said on Tuesday.

The Baltic's capesize index fell 0.96 percent, with average earnings lower at $11,054. Capesizes haul 150,000 tonne cargoes such as iron ore and coal.

"The lack of direction in the market has continued this week but now showing signs of weakening," broker Fearnleys said in a report.

The Baltic's panamax index inched down 0.32 percent, with average daily earnings falling to $12,261.

"Although the week started with some fresh cargoes entering the Atlantic market, this has not yet been sufficient to halt last week's slide," ICAP said.

"Spot tonnage remains under pressure in the Pacific basin as the decline in rates persists."

Cantor Fitzgerald said in a report that coal demand in the Pacific has not been adequate to clear vessels out, and the ballasting of vessels from the Indian Ocean to the U.S. Gulf searching for grain cargoes caused an oversupply of ships. (Reporting by Krishna N Das in Bangalore; Editing by Anthony Barker)

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