THERMAL COAL-Prices lifted by unusually high usage rates in Europe


European thermal coal prices rallied in the last week of May, supported by ongoing high use of the fuel for power generation, and prices in the Asia/Pacific region were also lifted by falling output in Indonesia and strong demand from India.

Coal cargoes for delivery into Europe’s ports of Amsterdam, Rotterdam or Antwerp (ARA) last closed at $49.10 per tonne, up almost 15 percent since early April.

While other coal benchmarks like South Africa’s Richards Bay have gained in value since April, European prices have performed strongest, narrowing its discount versus South African prices from as much as $13.70 a tonne in early April to under $4.50 a tonne now.

Traders said that unusually high thermal coal usage rates in Europe had lifted prices, further pushed by a jump in the price of oil, where Brent crude futures almost doubled since January lows to around $50 per barrel.

“Higher oil has certainly played its part in coal as well, but Europe’s high coal-fired power station usage rates play an equally big part,” one utility trader said.

“The coal burn index continues to outperform and remains well above its 3 year average,” commodity brokerage Marex Spectron said in a note to clients, adding that it expected coal use to “advance strongly” due to seasonal swings later this year.

Traders said that Europe’s high coal usage rate was in part a result of unusually low renewable power generation in Germany since the beginning of the year as well as competitive coal pricing versus its main fossil fuel rival, natural gas.

In the Asia/Pacific region, coal benchmarks also rose, albeit at lower levels.

On the supply side, the world’s top producer Indonesia said this week that its production in thermal coal output would be 419 million tonnes this year and 409 million tonnes in 2017, compared with slightly above 400 million in 2015.

This benefited Indonesia’s main Asian production rival, Australia, where prices for delivery from its Newcastle terminal last closed at $52 a tonne, up from just over $50 in mid-May.

On the demand side, import orders from India have been strong as a record heat-wave in May pushed up power demand in offices, homes and public buildings that have available but electricity intensive air conditioning.

This pushed up prices for South African coal, which is often exported to India, from just over $50 a tonne last week to a last close of $53.40 per tonne.

Source: Reuters 

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