Baltic index rises as smaller vessels gain

Sept 15 (Reuters) - The Baltic Exchange's main dry bulk sea freight index rose for a fifth straight session on Wednesday to its highest level in more than two weeks, on gains in panamax and supramax rates.

* The overall index, which factors in rates for capesize, panamax, supramax and handysize vessels, gained 12 points at 4,233, its highest since Aug. 27.

* The capesize index dropped 37 points, or 0.6%, to 6,437. But the index was still close to a 12-year peak scaled on Tuesday, driven in part by weather-related disruptions in the East China Sea.

* Average daily earnings for capesizes, which transport 150,000-tonne cargoes such as iron ore and coal, decreased $311 to $53,381.

* Iron ore futures in China hit a nine-month low on Wednesday as steel output in China continued to slide.

* "As disruption on the Australia-China coal trade enters its second year, new matches are being made between buyers and sellers," said BIMCO's chief shipping analyst Peter Sand in a note.

* "These changes fit into the wider picture of a strong dry bulk market influenced by congestions, particularly in Asia, soaking up tonnage and pushing freight rates upwards," he added.

* Factors including an overall strong rebound in demand for commodities, congestion in ports, especially in China, and global shipping constraints pushed the main dry bulk index to an 11-year peak on Aug. 27.

* The panamax index rose for a fifth straight session, adding 44 points, or 1.2%, to 3,800, highest in over 2 weeks.

* Average daily earnings for panamaxes, which ferry 60,000-70,000 tonne coal or grain cargoes, increased $398 to $34,201.

* Among smaller vessels, the supramax index added 37 points to 3,247. (Reporting by Ashitha Shivaprasad in Bengaluru; Editing by Amy Caren Daniel)

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