COLUMN-No breaks for coal miners from China, India imports – by Clyde Russell (Reuters U.K. – August 10, 2015)

LAUNCESTON, Australia, Aug 10 (Reuters) – It seems coal miners and traders just can’t catch a break, with a rebound in China’s imports being tempered by early signs of a turning point in India’s import growth.

The main problem for coal exporters such as Australia, Indonesia and South Africa is that China’s surge in imports in July is unlikely to be sustained, while India’s decline may well be the start of a longer-lasting trend.

China, the world’s biggest producer and importer of coal, brought in 21.26 million tonnes in July, up 28.1 percent from June’s 16.6 million and the highest in eight months, according to customs data released Aug. 8.

However, imports are down 7.7 percent on a year earlier and down 33.7 percent for the first seven months of 2015, making July’s month-on-month result an outlier in a overall weakening trend.

It’s also likely that July’s strength will remain an exception, rather than herald the reversal of the existing trend.

Traders believe the gain in imports came after Chinese domestic producers limited supply in a bid to bolster prices, with more than 70 percent of miners suffering losses in the first half of the year.

Domestic prices have fallen sharply this year, with benchmark thermal coal at Qinhuangdao port SH-QHA-TRMCOAL ending last week at 410 yuan ($66.13) a tonne, down 22 percent since the end of last year.

In contrast, benchmark Australian thermal coal at Newcastle port ended the week to Aug. 7 at $59.54 a tonne, down 7.5 percent from the end of 2014.

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