September 29, 2015 / 10:25 AM / 2 years ago

Commodities in crisis as Asian shares tumble and shipper files for bankruptcy

SINGAPORE/HONG KONG (Reuters) - A Japanese shipper filed for bankruptcy on Tuesday and global trading firm Louis Dreyfus posted lower profits, the latest victims of tumbling energy and raw material prices.

The logo of Glencore is pictured in front of the company's headquarters in the Swiss town of Baar, November 13, 2012. REUTERS/Michael Buholzer

The London-listed shares of mining and trading giant Glencore rebounded by around 10 percent, clawing back some ground from a near 30 percent slump on Monday.

Investors sold off Glencore bonds, highlighting nerves over its debt burden and financial situation.

Glencore has been afflicted by the same issue facing other miners: the prolonged fall in global metals prices caused partly by a slowdown in China, which is the world’s biggest consumer of metals.

Energy and commodity prices have fallen largely because of rising output following heavy investment into new assets while prices were still high, which has increasingly clashed with slowing demand in Asia, where China’s economy is growing at its slowest pace in decades.

The problems in the sector contributed to global trading group Louis Dreyfus Commodities B.V reporting a steep drop in first-half profits on Tuesday.

The crisis has also hit the shipping sector, where dry-bulk merchant Daiichi Chuo Kisen Kaisha filed for protection from creditors on Tuesday.

Glencore’s shares remain down by more than 80 percent since it listed in 2011, at the last high point of a long commodities boom, with its market capitalization briefly dipping below 10 billion pounds ($15.16 billion) for the first time.

Investment bank Citigroup said there was still value in Glencore. Citi rated Glencore shares as a “buy” and said Glencore could even consider going private, but other traders were wary of buying into commodity stocks.

“It is hard to make a case for buying commodity stocks in general with the current climate in China and emerging market volatility,” said Thames Capital Markets’ senior trader Gerren O‘Neill.

CURRENCY HITS

Shares in Asian commodity merchant Noble fell 10 percent, near to levels last seen at the height of the global financial crisis of 2008, giving it a market capitalization of just under S$3 billion ($2.10 billion).

Australian energy shares also tumbled, with Santos, Origin Energy and Karoon Gas all losing around a tenth of their stock market value.

“There is a crisis of confidence and people are continuing to de-leverage commodity stocks exposure,” said Benjamin Chang, CEO of hedge fund LBN Advisers, which manages about $600 million in funds.

Both Glencore and Noble Group have also seen their Credit Default Swap (CDS) prices - the cost of insuring against the companies defaulting on their debt - soar this year.

The bankruptcy filing of Daiichi Chuo Kisen Kaisha hit the shares of rival maritime companies, which in turn affected Japan’s benchmark Nikkei stock market.

Daiichi Chuo, which has suffered four straight annual losses as Chinese demand for iron ore and coal has dropped, had liabilities of around 108 billion yen ($900 million) as of end-March. It has a market value of just $96 million.

Weakening commodities markets also hit currencies from countries that rely heavily on energy or raw material exports.

In Malaysia, a large producer of oil and natural gas, the ringgit fell against the dollar on Tuesday to around its lowest level since the depths of the Asian financial crisis in 1998. In Indonesia, the world’s biggest exporter of thermal coal, the rupiah is languishing near 17-year lows.

Australia’s dollar, closely linked to its commodity exports such as iron ore, coal, oil and natural gas, has also taken a beating, losing more than a quarter of its value against the greenback since June 2014, when the current oil price rout began.

Additional reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta in London, Gus Trompiz in Paris and Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen in Singapore; Editing by Alex Richardson and William Hardy

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