March 11 (Reuters) – The Baltic Exchange’s main sea freight index, which tracks rates for ships carrying dry commodities, rose on Monday, primarily due to higher panamax rates that were driven by April grain cargoes from South America.
The overall index, which gauges the cost of shipping commodities such as iron ore, cement, grain, coal and fertilizer, climbed 4 points or 0.47 percent to 847 points.
The Baltic’s panamax index rose 4 points or 0.36 percent to 1,128 points.
The South American grain season continued to be the key factor in overall trading, especially for panamaxes, which usually transport 60,000 to 70,000 tonne cargoes of coal or grains.
In February, the U.S. Department of Agriculture raised its forecast of Brazil’s soybean crop by 1 million tonnes, cementing its place as the new world leader in soybean production and exports. Besides soybeans, Brazil will also top the United States as the top corn exporter.
Average daily earnings for panamaxes were up $32 at $9,026 on Monday.
“The Pacific market (for panamax and supramax segments) was slightly softer as declining coal prices reduced activity and Chinese traders stayed on the sidelines,” RS Platou Markets analyst Frode Morkedal said in a note.
The Baltic’s capesize index fell 0.16 percent to 1,260 points, with average daily earnings down $45 to $4,438.
Capesizes typically transport 150,000 tonne cargoes such as iron ore and coal.
Iron ore shipments account for around a third of seaborne volumes on the larger capesizes, and brokers said price developments remained a key factor for dry freight.
Shanghai rebar futures fell to their lowest in almost three months on Monday, pressured by a weak outlook for steel demand in top consumer China and data pointing to a patchy economic recovery.
The weakness in steel may cut appetite from Chinese steel producers for raw material iron ore, although traders say limited availability of spot cargoes could cushion the impact on prices.
“We maintain a cautiously optimistic view on China pulling demand growth load for dry bulk also in 2013 but still would want to see iron ore prices come down to spark a large-scale restocking,” Arctic Securities analyst Erik Nikolai Stavseth said in a note.
Average daily earnings for handysize ships were up $28 at $7,221 and those for supramaxes were up $124 at $9,162. (Reporting by Koustav Samanta in Bangalore; editing by Jane Baird)
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