SINGAPORE July 10 (Reuters) - Rates for capesize bulk carriers on key Asian routes will continue to fall next week as the number of ships available for charter outpaces the volume of new cargoes, brokers said.
"There is a lack of activity. There are quite a few fixtures, but the market is not exactly busy," said a Singapore-based capesize broker.
The broker estimated around 12 capesize ships had been chartered by Thursday, mainly to haul iron ore to China from Brazil and Australia. That is half the number that were chartered in the first three days of last week, Reuters freight data showed.
The broker estimated there would be around 90 capesize vessels available for charter by the end of this week.
"There will be a gradual slide in rates. The market will continue to soften, although owners will resist lower rates where they can," the broker said.
Freight rates from Australia to China would fall below $7.50 per tonne and could head towards $7 per tonne next week, the broker said.
Charter rates from Brazil to China would drop towards $20 per tonne, he added.
Rates for the Western Australia-China route closed at $7.76 per tonne on Wednesday, down from $8.26 a week earlier. But the last concluded fixture was lower at $7.64 per tonne, the cheapest rate since May 29.
Freight rates for the Brazil-China route closed at $21.55 per tonne on Wednesday, compared with $23.20 last Wednesday. The last fixture hit a three-week low of $21.19.
"The summer mood has reached the market with less cargoes and lower rates," Norwegian broker Fearnley said in a weekly note on Wednesday.
"The state of our market can be explained by high iron ore inventories in China and inactive iron ore traders," Fearnley added.
Iron ore stockpiles at Chinese ports topped 114.8 million tonnes in June, 57 percent higher than last year, the China Iron and Steel Association said in research published this week, even as iron ore imports fell.
Rates in the Pacific for smaller panamax vessels are also set to slide as chartering activity eases, brokers said.
"The general consensus is the panamax market is softening. It shot up quite quickly last week, but I think it will come off a bit over the next week or 10 days," a Singapore-based panamax broker said on Thursday.
Panamax charters in the Pacific were being fixed at $8,000 per day this week, about 25 percent higher than the Baltic index level, Fearnley said.
Rates for a panamax transpacific voyage closed at a six-week high of $5,884 per day on Wednesday, compared with $3,566 per day last week. The last concluded fixture was slightly higher at $5,900 per day.
Rates have rebounded since June 27 when they bottomed at $3,236 per day following a steady decline from $8,031 per day on May 20.
Charter rates for supramax vessels were unchanged from last week at around $11,500 per day for a voyage from Singapore to India although there were signs of an improvement in rates, Fearnley said in its weekly note.
The Baltic Exchange's main sea freight index closed at 863 points on Wednesday, down from 890 a week earlier. Technical analysis showed the index is expected to keep consolidating in a range of 847-995 in a week.
Reporting by Keith Wallis; Editing by Joseph Radford