A LACK of fixtures has made it difficult to judge the direction of the market. While much of the evidence was inconclusive and subject to confirmation, Panamax rates for transatlantic and transpacific business and forward positions on the US Gulf-Japan run appeared to weaken slightly. In the Capesize sector voyage rates staged a recovery after having been under some downward pressure during the week prior to Christmas. Sanko organised a January shipment of 150,000 tons of coal from Hampton Roads and Richards Bay to Japan paying US$11.50. In the Pacific, the Japanese charterer Dai-ichi booked tonnage for January transport of a 120,000 tons of coal cargo from New South Wales paying $5.70, and a 140,000 ton ore cargo from Western Australia during the latter part of the month agreeing $4.40. In the Panamax sector rates on the US Gulf-Japan run appeared to decline on Wednesday when Zen Noh was reported to have secured tonnage for January 15-24 shipment of 52,000 tons hss paying only $24. This rate is a dollar less than what Cho Yang conceded for similar business, with a January 1-15 laycan, on December 21. Continental were also active in the market last Wednesday, booking shipment of a 54,000t hss cargo, with a January 11-15 laycan, agreeing $23.80. Apparently, the American charterer has been denied the option of combination port discharge. On the Atlantic side, rates eased slightly in response to the quiet trading conditions and Russia's continuing suspension from the US Department of Agriculture export subsidy programme. Exportkhleb is about $127 million in arrears, more than double the figure a fortnight ago. Russia will not be receiving the $275 million in credit guarantees scheduled for January 1. In the Far East, rates for modern, large-capacity vessels remained reasonable firm, but owners of smaller and older units were often obliged to concede a discount. In the Handysize sector rates remained firm, illustrated shortly before Christmas by LD Seal's fixture of the Future-32 type Azteca I for a trip from the Continent to the Far East paying $12,000. In the Far East, NYK took the Future-32 type Alam Selaras for an Australian round at $8,800. Pan Ocean booked the 1982-built 27,192 dwt Apj Anjli for similar business paying $7,000 basis Ho Chi Minh delivery.