Feb 1 (Reuters) - The Baltic Exchange’s main sea freight index extended its slide to a fourth straight session to touch a near six-month low on Thursday, as rates fell for all vessel segments amid a seasonal slowdown in demand.
* The overall index, which tracks rates for ships carrying dry bulk commodities, dropped by 38 points, or 3.3 percent, to 1,114 points, the lowest since Aug. 10, 2017.
* The index recorded a 15.66 percent decline in January, its biggest monthly percentage fall since May 2017.
* “I think its fair to recognize that the first quarter always represents quite a much lower level of demand,” said Peter Sand, chief shipping analyst at industry lobby group BIMCO.
* The capesize index shed 85 points, or 5.3 percent, to 1,528 points, having registered a 43 percent fall in January 2018.
* Average daily earnings for capesizes, which typically transport 150,000-tonne cargoes such as iron ore and coal, were down $936 at $11,791.
* Iron ore on the Dalian Commodity Exchange slipped 1 percent on Thursday amid concerns that appetite from the world’s top buyer could weaken if steel mills keep cutting production beyond winter.
* China’s government ordered producers in 28 cities to cut output between mid-November and mid-March to reduce air pollution.
* “So anything that comes out of current weakness, we do not expect that to be a trend of a huge change, but perhaps the weakness that we always see in the markets around that time of the year leading up to the Chinese New Year,” BIMCO’s Sand said.
* The panamax index lost 33 points, or 2.34 percent, to 1,378 points.
* Average daily earnings for panamaxes, which usually carry coal or grain cargoes of about 60,000 to 70,000 tonnes, declined $263 to $11,046.
* Among smaller vessels, the supramax index shed 7 points to 877 points and the handysize index lost 6 points to 552 points.
* Meanwhile, the Baltic Exchange on Thursday said from March 1, 2018, the main dry index will no longer include the handysize time charter average. (Reporting by Arpan Varghese in Bengaluru)