A January ISM report on manufacturing and the overall state of the economy caused a sharp reaction on Wall Street, resulting in a steep drop in the stock market, The ISM’s new orders index for the manufacturing sector fell by 13.2 points, reaching 51.2 points in January, the steepest tumble since December, 1980. The JP Morgan Global Manufacturing PMI showed a small decline in January, going from 53.0 points in December to 52.9 points in January. However, anything above 50 points is a good indicator of an expanding market, albeit at a slow pace. The PMI reflects industrial production around the world, so all in all, worldwide markets appear to be in good shape.
The iron ore and coal shipping markets appear to be holding steady, with slight variations of minimal slowing. Port Hedland, Australia shipped less ore to China in January—a total of only 23.3 million tons. This was 4% less than the previous month, indicating that Chinese imports of iron ore are continuing to decline. Yet, compared to January of last year, exports out of Port Hedland to China are up by 27%. Port Hedland is one of the largest iron ore ports in the world, used principally by Atlas, BHP Biliton, and Fortescue Metals Group.
It’s a different story for coal shipping. 96.1 million tons of coal was shipped out of Port Waratah, Australia in January, virtually the same as in December. Compared to a year ago, this represents a 7% increase in coal shipments. There are some interesting changes in recipient markets: Japan and China are receiving less coal and South Korea has increased its coal imports.
According to Thomson Reuters, 3% of the total bulk shipping fleet is currently stuck in Chinese, Brazilian, South African and Australian ports.