Stocks of dry-bulk shipping companies were sailing in opposite directions at the end of the trading week. At 12:30 p.m. EST on Friday, shares of Greek-based Star Bulk Carriers (NASDAQ:SBLK) and Diana Shipping (NYSE:DSX) were up 10% and 15%, respectively, while Cypriot company Castor Maritime (NASDAQ:CTRM) is down 13%.
This has been an interesting week to be invested in dry bulk shipping. Over the past five trading days, Star Bulk stock has appreciated an impressive 18%, and Diana Shipping is up 30%. But Castor Maritime stock had more than doubled, until today's sell-off, rising an astonishing 130% in four days of trading.
Where's all this excitement coming from? To begin with, the Baltic Exchange Dry Index, which tracks charter rates for ships that carry dry bulk cargo such as coal, grain, and iron pellets, had been in free fall this year. It dropped from as high as 1,831 to just 1,323 on Feb. 3, a decline of 28% that didn't bode well for dry shipping profits. That free fall finally bottomed out just above 1,300, however, and has remained pretty steady since, which may be giving investors confidence that the worst is now over.
Adding to their confidence, on Tuesday, brokerage firm BTIG announced that, in its opinion, the cyclical oceangoing freight market is set to recover over the next two years as the global economy emerges from its recession.
It remains to be seem whether BTIG is right, and investors today appear to be hedging their bets on that point. If the analyst is correct, then BTIG's prediction that Diana Shipping stock, for example, is poised to double in price means that there could still be plenty of room to improve for stocks like Diana and Star Bulk, which haven't appreciated as much as Castor Maritime.
But if BTIG is wrong about the recovery, then that implies that Castor Maritime's astounding gains in share price could prove unjustifiable and unsustainable. Investors hedging their bets today may be doing the prudent thing: cashing in their profits on Castor Maritime before they have a chance to disappear.
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