Baltic index near 4-year low as virus mutes shipping activity

Feb 11 (Reuters) - The Baltic Exchange’s main sea freight index edged up from a near four-year low on Tuesday, while the larger capesize segment remained in negative territory, as the coronavirus outbreak in China crippled demand.

* The Baltic index, which tracks rates for capesize, panamax and supramax vessels that ferry dry bulk commodities, rose 7 points, or 1.7%, to 418.

* The main index slid to its lowest level since March 2016 in the previous session.

* Demand has already been hit strongly in China, which accounts for almost 40% of total dry seaborne imports, Charles Chasty, research analyst at Affinity Shipping, told the Reuters Global Markets Forum.

* “We expect the coronavirus, should it last for a while longer, to have a more deteriorating impact on the dry bulk market, owing to China’s dominant position within the market.”

* The coronavirus outbreak in the world’s second-largest economy has killed more than 1,000 so far and threatened the country’s economic growth.

* The capesize index gained 1 point but still stood at negative 253. The index broke a streak of 42 consecutive sessions of falls.

* “The sharp drop-off (in capesize segment) can best be attributed to the coronavirus and the new dynamics of IMO 2020, as well as it being a seasonally low period,” Chasty said.

* The International Maritime Organization (IMO) banned ships from using fuels with sulphur content above 0.5% from Jan. 1.

* Average daily earnings for capesizes, which typically transport 170,000-180,000 tonne cargoes including iron ore and coal, rose $172 to $2,760.

* The panamax index rose 11 points, or 2%, to 557.

* Average daily earnings for panamaxes, which usually carry coal or grain cargoes of about 60,000 tonnes to 70,000 tonnes, increased $97 to $5,010.

* The supramax index fell 7 points to 477. (Reporting by Diptendu Lahiri in Bengaluru)