Baltic Dry Index - BDI (BALDRY)

Reuters  Sep 25  Comment 
Germany's BDI industry association on Tuesday lowered its 2018 growth forecast for Europe's largest economy, citing weaker demand for German goods due to increased business uncertainty caused by U.S. President Donald Trump's trade policy and Brexit.
Reuters  Sep 18  Comment 
The escalation of the trade conflict between the United States and China is very concerning and will affect German firms, Germany's BDI industry association said on Tuesday after the U.S. imposed further tariffs on Chinese imports.
GenEng News  Aug 6  Comment 
Scientists at Monash University's Biomedicine Discovery Institute (BDI) have identified a new mechanism used by Henipaviruses in infection, and potential new targets for antivirals to treat them. The researchers believe their findings may also...
Reuters  Jul 26  Comment 
Germany's BDI industry association welcomed the outcome of talks between U.S. President Donald Trump and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on trade as a sign of de-escalation but added that action must follow the words.
Financial Times  May 25  Comment 
Marine fuel costs are up more than 20% this year
Motley Fool  Apr 23  Comment 
Stifel hops on the dry bulk train, upgrading shares of Scorpio Bulkers and Star Bulk Carriers.
Motley Fool  Apr 16  Comment 
Deutsche Bank thinks the upturn in dry bulk rates has found its sea legs.
Yahoo  Apr 13  Comment 
If the USPS raised its shipping rates by 20% it could cost Amazon well over $1 billion a year in additional shipping costs.
Clusterstock  Apr 5  Comment 
Donald Trump has been railing against Amazon lately in a series of tweets, charging that the company pays too little in state and local taxes and has a deal with the US Postal Service that's costing the latter money. The president's tweets may...


The Baltic Dry Index 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. This index can be used as an overall economic indicator as it shows where end prices are heading for items that use the raw materials that are shipped in dry bulk.

Composition of the Index

The index is maintained by the Baltic Exchange. The cargoes being moved are raw material commodities such as coal, steel, cement, and iron ore. The prices of underlying contracts are determined by the buyers and sellers, and then the exchange takes 20 different routes throughout the world for various materials and averages them into one index. The index does not concern itself with finished goods or container ships, only raw materials and dry bulk specific ships are factored into the calculation.[1] It also factors in all four sizes of oceangoing dry bulk transport vessels:

Ship Classification Dead Weight Tons % of World Fleet % of Dry Bulk Traffic [2]
Capesize 172,000 10% 25%
Panamax 74,000 19% 25%
Supramax 52,454 37% 25% w/ Handysize
Handysize 28,000 34% 25% w/ Supramax[3]

What the Index Means To Investors

Economic Implications

This index is one of the purest leading indicators of economic activity. It measures the demand to move raw materials and precursors to production. Consumer spending and other economic indicators are backward looking, meaning they examine what has already occurred. The BDI offers a real time glimpse at global raw material and infrastructure demand. This could also be gleaned from looking at commodity prices, but there are substitution effects and futures contracts that make it difficult to interpret the impact of commodity price fluctuations. Additionally, nearly all commodities are seeing severe increases in prices in 2008 regardless of supply situations as investors seek to hedge their inflation exposure with hard assets.

Unlike stock and commodities markets, the Baltic Dry Index is totally devoid of speculative players. The trading is limited only to the member companies, and the only relevant parties securing contracts are those who have actual cargo to move and those who have the ships to move it. [4] The BDI will show how much a company or country is willing to pay to import raw materials immediately. For example, if a Chinese company has contracted out coal prices for the next year from Rio Tinto (RTP), then the spot price of coal increasing after a mine accident will not impact that established contract. However, when this company is willing to pay more per ton to ship the coal than to actually purchase it, an investor can see that price growth is accelerating.

Price Increases Passed To Businesses/Consumers

As the BDI increases, so effectively does the cost of raw materials. This cost associated with procuring the materials must be passed along the value chain by producers and refiners. In the end, consumers will see higher dry bulk rates in the higher prices they pay for goods derived from these raw materials. For example, when Folgers pays an extra $10/ton to import coffee beans, they will pass along this increased procurement cost to consumers to maintain margins.

Additionally, imported goods may often carry a BDI factor in the prices. An example of this would be the average Chinese imported good. As China transformed from coal exporter to importer, they began buying coal from nations such as Russia, Brazil, and Australia. The coal from the latter two must be shipped using dry bulk carriers. As the rates for the BDI went up in 07, so did the cost of coal to China. Since coal is used for 70-80% of China's energy generation, [5] overhead costs for factories increased with the price of coal. As the overhead costs increase, so must the price of the end good to maintain the margin of profit. As this end price increased, an American paid more for a t-shirt or toy at Wal-Mart.

In the current scenario any rise in price of consumer goods is not possible but if this trend continues for an extended period the companies tend to pass on the prices to the end users to maintain its margin

Key Trends and Forces

  • Commodity Demand - This is determined mainly by industrial production and energy demand. If commodity demand is strong, BDI rates will increase regardless of spot rates for those commodities. Companies that have contracted out spot rates will show increased demand through paying more for shipping of the materials. As more coal and steel are being demanded by China, so will the rates for dry bulk shipping increase.
  • Fleet Supply - This is determined by the number of available ships, their capacity, and the utilization rates. Additionally, the average age of the fleets will determine where they are in the life cycle. The average ship lasts 25 years. If the average is closer to that number, supply will be decreasing in the short term. Also, supply is greatly determined by delivery of new vessels. Currently, there is significant back logged demand for new vessels. With rates for the largest dry bulkers fetching nearly 10x that of a comparable VLCC Oil Tanker, many companies converted tankers into dry bulk carriers.[6]
  • Seasonal Pressures - Weather has a major impact on both demand and logistics. For demand, cold weather may increase the demand for coal and other energy creating raw materials. For logistics, cold weather may cause ice to block ports and low rivers to prevent travel. Both of these cause increases in the BDI. Conversely, a mild winter or early ice breakup in cold water parts will cause decreases in the BDI.
  • Bunker Prices - Bunker fuel is a type of fuel oil a ship uses for propulsion. Bunker fuel accounts for between a quarter and a third of vessel operating costs. Higher crude oil prices also mean higher bunker fuel prices which will be reflected in higher BDI prices. So, just as higher oil prices will put a damper on Airline company margins, they will squeeze margins for dry bulk operators.
  • Choke Points Nearly half of the world's oil passes through a few narrow shipping lanes. This includes the straits of Hormuz and Malacca, the Bosporus and the Suez and Panama canals. These geographic choke points cause natural caps in the number of ships that can pass through each day, month or year and therefore also limits the bulk tonnage capacity of certain shipping routes. If anything disrupts the flow of ships through the choke points, the BDI will increase. The narrow (52 mile wide) Bering Strait (also called the "Bering Gate" in the shipping industry) may soon become the world's newest strategic "choke point" for shipping [7].
  • Market Sentiment - Because of the time lag in forecasting demand for raw materials, market opinion can greatly affect the freight exchange. [8] The recent halving of the index's value can be attributed to many companies forecasting lower global growth and cutting their production/demand targets.
  • Port Congestion -This acts as another great buffer against supply increases lowering index prices. The actual infrastructure of these ports prevents more ships entering the market. The ports simply cannot handle more traffic. Until major changes occur at these vital terminals, there will be upward pressure on dry bulk prices. Shipping industry analysts [1] are actually developing an index to standardize and make available this incredibly vital data.[9]

Example of Global Ports Congestion Index Report

  • Labor Relations - Nothing is loaded or unloaded from ships without labor. Labor relations at various ports around the world directly affects the BDI. For example, in the U.S. both the ILA (International Longshoreman's Association) and the ILWU (International Longshoreman's and Warehouse Union) exert enormous control over the labor at ports. Labor relations issues include: intentional work slowdowns, company lockouts, strikes and political boycotts. Labor unions have expressed their political power and influence in the past by boycotting products from apartheid South Africa, protesting the war in Iraq and even the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan[10]. Labor relations impacts on the Baltic Dry Index should not be underestimated by the sophisticated investor.
  • Piracy - Although piracy has been a constant factor affecting shipping for thousands of years, 2008 saw some significant piracy events including the capture and ransom of the MV Sirius Star, a Saudi owned oil supertanker seized by pirates off the coast of Somalia. Pirates are also holding crews hostage for significant ransoms as in the case of the MV Faina, a Ukrainian arms shipping vessel. Interpol and other global law enforcement agencies are investigating the connections of various organized crime groups that may be bankrolling and organizing pirate groups including those based in Somalia. Various nations including the U.S., Canada, France, U.K., Russia, Ukraine and China are now deploying warships to patrol the coast of Somalia. These factors put additional upward pressure on the BDI[11].
  • New Arctic Shipping Routes - Shipping from Europe to China by means of the arctic offers a route distance savings of approximately 4000 miles, which is a large percentage of the non-arctic total route distance. Of course, the historical search for the Europe-India route was the reason for the discovery of the "New World" (America). With oil prices (Bunker Fuel) at 1st Q 2009 lows, arctic shipping may or may not be economical. But during mid-2008 oil prices, a 4000 mile route saving offered significant fuel and time savings. Discussion among scientists attending the March 2009 "Copenhagen Conference" suggests that the predictions by the 2007 UN- IPCC Report on Climate Change regarding the likely clearing of arctic sea ice has underestimated the rate of clearing and by 2013 arctic shipping may become feasible. Although the shipping industry remains highly secretive, the potentially significant economic advantages have caused many international shipping companies to begin analyzing and planning for potential new arctic routes. Shipping industry intelligence indicates that China is interested in potential deep-water ports in Iceland. Arctic routes do not currently affect the BDI but may in the near future[12].

Other Indices

Shipping industry publication "Lloyd's List" publishes a comprehensive list of input and route specific indices. These can be used to gauge demand on certain inputs. Economic activity can also be extrapolated by examining where rates are rising/falling on specific routes.

Lloyd's List Indices and Route/Cargo Info[13]


When the BDI increases, dry bulk shipowners win. The increase in the index directly increases their margins and revenues.

When the BDI decreases, every other consumer/producer in the global value chain wins. Since the BDI measures procurement costs, when these costs go down, producers benefit from increased margins, and consumers benefit from lower prices for finished products.

Dry Bulk Shipping Stocks

When an investor buys a dry bulk shipping stock, they are effectively buying into the Baltic Dry Index. The amount of exposure depends on the individual stock. Some companies, such as DryShips (DRYS), have most of their ships contracted out at the spot Time Charter Equivalent. This means that the contracts are directly correlated to the daily price of the BDI. Thus, their revenues are directly tied to the index. In times of increasing prices, this set up will yield greater profits for the shipper. Other companies, such as Diana Shipping (DSX), have contracts set at the period Time Charter Equivalent. This means that they enter into a contract, usually 2-5 years in length, which pays a fixed daily rate. This set up provides less volatility, hedges risk against falling BDI rates, and guarantees cash flows.

Because dry bulk ships are expensive, fungible assets, shipping companies often have high asset values, and their stocks tend to show up on value screens. Some argue for comparing the relative values of shipping companies based on their Net Asset Value.[14]

U.S. Listed Dry Bulk Shippers:

Market Cap in $Millions (11/12/10)
DryShips (DRYS) 1,590
Diana Shipping (DSX) 1,100
Genco Shipping (GNK) 559
Excel Maritime Carriers (EXM) 509
Eagle Bulk Shipping (EGLE) 342
TBS International (TBSI) 137
Navios Maritime Holdings (NM) 605
Safe Bulkers (SB) 528
Seanergy Maritime Holdings (SHIP) 103
Star Bulk Carriers Corp. (SBLK) 189
Paragon Shipping (PRGN) 196
Euroseas (ESEA) 124
OceanFreight (OCNF) 80
Navios Maritime Partners (NMM) 929
FreeSeas (FREE) 29
Frontline (FRO) 2,200
Omega Navigation Enterprises (ONAV) 23
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