COLUMN-Coal beats gold (and other commodities) amid coronavirus gloom – by Clyde Russell (Reuters U.S. – March 17, 2020)

LAUNCESTON, Australia, March 17 (Reuters) – Amid carnage in the oil markets, and sharp losses for other commodities such as copper, you may be tempted to think gold is the best option for a positive return. But coal beats the metal.

Coal’s image is increasingly that of a pariah fuel, demonised by environmentalists and shunned by investors wary of its role in climate change. But one of the top performing commodities this year is coking coal, the higher-quality fuel used to make steel.

Coking coal futures on the Singapore Exchange, which mirror The Steel Index price for Australian free-on-board cargoes, ended at $159.98 a tonne on Monday, up 17.7% since the end of last year.

In contrast, spot gold ended at $1,513.91 an ounce on Monday, down 0.2% from end-2019, with the loss extending in Asian trade on Tuesday to around 1.5%. And it’s not just coking coal. Even thermal coal, used mainly in power plants, is looking fairly solid.

The weekly index price for thermal coal at Australia’s Newcastle port, as assessed by commodity price reporting agency Argus, was $64.87 a tonne in the week ended March 13, virtually unchanged from the $64.85 that prevailed at the end of 2019.

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