The Globalization Bubble

The Baltic Dry Index, which tracks the cost of shipping goods and commodities like coal and iron ore around the globe, has fallen to six-year lows in recent weeks, and is off over 90 percent from its highs in May of this year. The index, seen as a rough proxy for global economic activity, is a leading indicator, so its decline doesn't bode well for an already crummy global economy. But there is another

The Baltic Dry Index, which tracks the cost of shipping goods and commodities like coal and iron ore around the globe, has fallen to six-year lows in recent weeks, and is off over 90 percent from its highs in May of this year. The index, seen as a rough proxy for global economic activity, is a leading indicator, so its decline doesn't bode well for an already crummy global economy. But there is another factor at work. Once upon a time, the BDI was thought to be immune to speculation, because who would book a freighter if they didn't have cargo to move? But in recent years, as global commodities trading soared, speculators began reserving ships to tie up capacity so they could sell that freight space at a profit, says Peter Sorrentino, portfolio manager of the Huntington Real Strategies Fund, which invests in real estate and commodities. Then commodity prices began their steep decline and trade credit froze up. “When commodity prices fell off the way they did, all the leverage trade had to go away,” says Sorrentino. “So you got essentially a round trip in freight rates in the past 12 months,” he says. The stock prices of bulk shipping companies like Dry Ships have been trounced along with the BDI, but Sorrentino says, for the most part, their business fundamentals are still strong, so there are some good values there. He expects some of these stocks to snap back when the economy comes around.

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