THERMAL COAL-Rare late spring cold snap lifts European coal prices


A rally in European coal prices is narrowing their discount to Asian benchmarks as a cold spell pushes up energy demand at a time when Europe usually starts moving towards milder spring weather.

European physical coal cargoes into Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Antwerp (ARA) have risen nearly 7 percent in price since the start of the month, last settling at $45.70 a tonne. The rally has halved their discount to South African prices from February highs, taking it to $7.70 per tonne.

Traders said the price rise followed a rare springtime cold snap that has seen temperatures across the continent plummet to winter levels.

Average temperatures in Germany are currently just 6.5 degrees Celsius, half the seasonal norm. Temperatures are expected to rise gradually but remain below the seasonal norm well into May.

“This is a really unusual cold snap, increasing coal demand quite suddenly, and it’s caught people by surprise so sellers lifted their offers in an opportunity to raise revenues,” one coal trader said.

The tighter physical market is also showing in coal futures, where API 2017 has risen by a quarter since February and over 10 percent this month, ending an 80 percent price rout since coal hit all-time highs in 2008.

“The cold weather certainly also fed into futures, though here the crude rally certainly also played its part,” another trader said referring to a 70 percent recovery in Brent away from 13-year lows earlier this year.

In Asia, which has escaped any significant cold-snap, coal prices have dipped over the past two weeks as demand from the northern Asian consumer hubs slowed along with milder spring temperatures.

Coal cargoes from South Africa’s Richards Bay terminal have come off 3.35 percent since their April peaks to a last close of $53.40 a tonne, while shipments from Australia’s Newcastle terminal have come off 1.15 percent to $51.70.

Japanese thermal coal imports fell 3 percent in March, and year-to-date imports were down 5.7 percent, official data showed on Wednesday.

Affecting regional flows, Indonesian exports have been disrupted as some ports blocked ships heading to the Philippines due to safety concerns following a spate of ship hijackings in Filipino waters.

Fresh demand doubts emerged from China, where the government said it will halt the construction of coal-fired power plants until 2018 in 15 regions in a move to slow emissions and rein in pollution. It will also stop approving new projects in as many as 13 provinces until 2018.

Source: Reuters 

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