COLUMN-India’s surging coal imports driven by captive power users – by Clyde Russell (Reuters U.S. – August 20, 2018)

LAUNCESTON, Australia, Aug 20 (Reuters) – India’s coal imports appear headed for another strong month in August, raising the question as to why the usually cost-sensitive market hasn’t scaled back purchases given a surge in prices to the highest in nearly seven years.

Total coal imports may reach 17.7 million tonnes in August, according to vessel-tracking and port data compiled by Thomson Reuters.

This figure may be revised as it becomes clearer when ships will arrive and discharge their cargoes, but the August imports are likely to be more or less in line with the 17.4 million tonnes imported in July, which was the strongest monthly outcome so far in 2018.

But no matter what the exact level of imports turns out to be, India’s coal imports have been exceptionally strong and are on track to rise for the first year in three in 2018.

This is despite prices for thermal coal rising to the highest in 6-1/2 years, with the Australian benchmark Newcastle cargoes trading above $120 a tonne recently, taking the year-to-date gain to around 18 percent.

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