At the Annual General Meeting to be held in London today, Bill Thomas, Chairman of Clarksons, made the following trading statement covering the period from 1 January 2019 to 8 May 2019.
The trends outlined in the outlook statement within our 2018 full year results on 11 March have continued, with the performance of the business illustrating the strength from, and importance of, our multi-divisional diversified offering. Our broking business continues to benefit from our best in class position in all markets, from the transaction flow the Company sees and from our research, data analysis and market intelligence. Spot negotiations within broking have been in line with expectations during the period. This is despite the average ClarkSea index, which reflects earnings for the main vessel types in shipping, being 6% lower in the first 4 months of 2019 than the average for the whole of 2018 and 22% lower than the final quarter of last year.
We highlighted at the full year results that dry cargo freight rates started the year with significant challenges. This environment continued through to the end of April, evidenced by the Baltic Dry Index which, was 40% lower than the average for the whole of 2018. We continue to believe that this market will start to improve as the year progresses.
Strength in our other broking divisions is offsetting this weakness and the outlook for our broking business remains positive. Challenging global financial markets have, as they did in the first quarter of 2018 and as disclosed at our full year results, resulted in depressed activity levels in our financial division. We have a strong and improving pipeline of mandates, though there remains uncertainty as to the exact timing of the execution of these deals. Our support business is trading in line with expectations as we see signs of renewed activity in the North Sea oil and gas industry.
Finally, demand for our industry-leading market insights, data and research is continuing to drive growth in our research business as expected.
Overall, we have made a solid start to the year, which we continue to believe will again be second half weighted.