RPT-COLUMN-Will coal price retreat be a Dunkirk or Stalingrad?: – by Clyde Russell (Reuters U.S. – November 22, 2016)


Nov 22 It may be a tad early to call a peak in the price of thermal coal in top-consuming region Asia, but at the very least the momentum seems to have been lost from a commodity that has surged some 130 percent in the past 10 months.

If coal prices have already peaked, the question is which of the World War II battles of Dunkirk or Stalingrad will the retreat most resemble. A Dunkirk-style retreat would see coal prices hold on to much of their gains this year, just as the British Army managed to keep much of its fighting strength by evacuating from France in the face of a German victory in 1940.

A Stalingrad-style defeat would see coal prices surrender most of their gains in a rout similar to what happened when the German Sixth Army was surrounded and annihilated by Soviet forces in the winter of 1942-43 at Stalingrad.

So far, the pullback in thermal coal prices has been very modest, with the Australian benchmark, the weekly Newcastle port index dropping to $100.52 a tonne in the week ended Nov. 18.

This was down from the 44-month high of $109.69 a tonne the previous week, and the first downward move since last August.The index rose 131 percent between its 10-year low of $47.37 a tonne on Jan. 22 to its peak on Nov. 11.

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