COLUMN-Coal delays seasonal price decline on robust Asia demand – by Clyde Russell (Reuters U.S. – January 21, 2018)

LAUNCESTON, Australia, Jan 22 (Reuters) – It’s getting to the time of year when a seasonal decline in thermal coal prices in Asia is to be expected as winter’s demand peak passes – but so far the power station fuel is defying gravity.

The price of spot cargoes of thermal coal from Australia’s Newcastle port, a regional benchmark, ended at $108.75 a tonne on Jan. 19, within touching distance of the $109.50 reached on Jan. 17, which was the highest in a year.

The price has rallied 5.8 percent since the end of last year and by 18 percent since the most recent trough of $92.20 a tonne on Nov. 23. The first port of call when looking at moves in thermal coal prices in the seaborne market is China, given its status as the largest importer of the fuel.

While China’s demand from the seaborne market does appear to have picked up in January, it also seems that Asia’s other top importers have been taking more cargoes.

Vessel-tracking and port data compiled by Thomson Reuters Supply Chain and Commodity Forecasts suggest China will import around 20.9 million tonnes of coal, both thermal and coking, in January, up from 17.2 million in December and 19.1 million in November.

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