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Shipping Rates Extend Slump as Demand Declines Before Year End

Commodity shipping rates, heading for the lowest annual average in 26 years, slumped for a 17th day as demand declined before year-end holidays.

The Baltic Dry Index slid 1.1 percent to 700 points, according to the Baltic Exchange in London. Rates slid for three of the four vessel classes that the exchange tracks. Handysizes, the smallest monitored, gained 0.2 percent.

The gauge’s average of 921 this year would be the lowest since 1986. Owners will have to contend with a fleet of ore, coal and grain carriers expanding by 7 percent next year, almost double demand growth of 4 percent, according to data from Clarkson Plc, the world’s largest shipbroker. The exchange’s last assessments for 2012 will be published Dec. 24.

“It’s very close to the holidays and there’s not a huge amount of chartering,” Peter Norfolk, an analyst at Freight Investor Services Ltd., a London-based broker of shipping-rate swaps, said by phone today. A vessel surplus is what’s driving freight costs down, he said.

The largest decrease today was for Panamaxes, the biggest ships to navigate the Panama Canal, which slumped 3.4 percent to $5,622 a day. Capesizes, which carry the most iron ore, fell 1 percent to $4,814. Supramaxes slid 0.5 percent to $7,654. Handysizes rose to $6,587.

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