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Pacific coal prices fall amid sluggish China demand

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Source: Pexels, May 25, 2019

Asia-Pacific coal prices softened further this week as subdued Chinese demand, in part due to a weakening yuan, put pressure on the market, participants said on Thursday.



The benchmark Global Coal Newcastle index was assessed last down nearly 3% on the week at USD 80.65/t.



It reached its lowest level since early May on Tuesday of USD 80.13/t.



“I see more bearish drivers developing in the Pacific,” said a coal analyst with a Europe-based energy firm.



“The yuan is very weak, driven by the US-China trade war, which is keeping Chinese buyers out of the market.”



The CNY was seen last at around 6.9 versus the dollar, 3% weaker than at the start of the month, making dollar-linked coal less attractive for the country’s buyers.



“The CNY has dropped [sharply] over the past two weeks and this is definitely adding pressure on coal imports,” said a Chinese coal analyst, with an energy firm.



Washington earlier this month raised tariffs on USD 200bn worth of Chinese goods, triggering a response last week from China – which increased tariffs on USD 60bn of US trade from 10% to 25%.



High stocks

Both analysts also noted stocks at Chinese power plants were relatively high, thereby further reducing import demand.



“[Furthermore] a wetter outlook in China and a lack of cooling demand across Asia can see demand weaken further,” said Alfa Energy analysts in a note.



Nevertheless, forecaster Radiant Solutions said temperatures across northern China, Japan and the Korean peninsula were expected to turn “unseasonably warm/hot” this week, with the highest temperatures forecast for the weekend.



Elsewhere, Indian coal production was more than 2% higher on the year last month at around 55m tonnes, provisional IHS data showed.



Therefore, with stocks at Indian power plants also around double last May’s levels – at more than 30m tonnes – there was not much urgency to import, said an Indian coal trader.

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