Freight rates for capesize bulk carriers could see a rebound next week on tighter tonnage supply if there is a pickup in chartering activity by miners and operators, brokers said. That came as freight rates showed signs of softening on Thursday, after rates nudged slightly higher earlier in the week, with charterers trying to push rates lower. "Rates from West Australia to China are struggling at about US$5.50 per tonne," a Shanghai-based capesize broker said. Indicating the downward pressure on rates, Chinese charterers were offering US$5.15 a tonne on Thursday, a Singapore-based capesize broker said. Freight rates from Brazil to China were US$11 to US$11.30 a tonne. "Rates are on the slide. The market is a bit softer even though all the major miners are active," the broker said. But a flurry of six private charters this week by Vale had tightened tonnage supply, creating the possibility rates would climb on increased cargo demand, brokers said. "There is potential for a revival [in freight rates]. It would need a bit more action out of Brazil and Richards Bay [in South Africa] … but tonnage is tightening up," the Singapore broker said. Longer term, the Shanghai capesize broker was pessimistic there would be a traditional fourth-quarter bounce in rates that would remain low and steady. "Unless bunker prices rocket to the sky, I don't think there is a big chance for the market to push up," the Shanghai broker said. With owners trading the spot market paying for their ship's fuel, low bunker prices meant owners were willing to accept a discount on freight rates. Charter rates for the Western Australia-China route were about US$5.39 per tonne on Wednesday, compared with US$5 a week ago. Rates for the Brazil-China route were steady at US$11.40 per tonne on Wednesday, against US$11.30 last week. "I feel owners and charterers are fighting behind the scenes, leading to steady market numbers," the Shanghai broker said. Panamax rates for a north Pacific round-trip voyage, continued to fall, dropping to US$5,832 per day on Wednesday.