Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Why Baltic Dry Index Is So Important & Where Is It Headed

The BDI is a daily survey of demand for shipping of dry goods, which is everything not a liquid (e.g. crude oil primarily), shipped in bulk. All container traffic are measured by an alternate index called HARP. But building materials such as timber or scrap steel, are considered "dry goods" and are a good indicator of economic activity. So, when demand is high for a given supply of ships, the price soars.

This has proven a very good leading indicator for the economy which will show the effect of those material inputs a few months hence. But when demand turns soft and there is less need for shipping to move bulk products around the world, the price drops. Price is very inelastic in respect to demand and the supply of ships takes time to alter. So, for a given short range of time, less than one year, it is hard to find a better indicator of near future economic activity and resultant equity market prices.

The BDI is a daily average of prices to ship raw materials. It represents the cost paid by an end customer to have a shipping company transport raw materials across seas on the Baltic Exchange, the global marketplace for brokering shipping contracts. The index is quoted every working day at 1300 London time. The Baltic canvasses brokers around the world and asks how much it would cost to book various cargoes of raw materials on various routes (e.g. 100,000 tons of iron ore from San Francisco to Hong Kong, or 1,000,000 metric tons of rice from Bangkok to Tokyo).

The index is made up of an average of the Baltic Supramax, Panamax, and Capesize indices. These indices are based on professional assessments made by a panel of international shipbroking companies.

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