The European market saw thermal coal prices rise to USD 330/t by the end of the week, accompanied by high index volatility amid speculative trading on the paper market, uncertainty over Russian gas supplies and the introduction of partial embargo on Russian crude oil. Meanwhile, coal stocks at ARA terminals have been increasing for five weeks in a row, surpassing the 6.7 mio t mark, which is the highest level since September 2020. Record high stocks may lead to a price correction in the short term.
Prices for South African material followed the European market indices, closing at 325 USD/t amid steady demand from the EU ahead of a complete ban on Russian coal imports, starting from August 10, 2022. South African operator Transnet stated that the railway line linking South Africa’s coal producing provinces and the Richards Bay Coal Terminal (RBCT) was still scheduled to be shut for maintenance from July 12 to July 21, 2022. Coal stockpiles at RBCT increased above 3 mio t. (+1 mio t to May 2022), however, this is well below the historic stock level of 5 mio t, which is necessary to ensure uninterrupted operation of the terminal during Transnet repair works.
In China, spot prices for 5500 NAR fell to 186/t FOB Qinhuangdao. The decrease in thermal coal quotations on the Chinese domestic market resulted from an upsurge in coal inventories at power plants and a drop in electricity consumption in a number of Chinese provinces, because of the lockdowns, caused by the recent Covid-19 outbreak. The main coal-producing provinces in eastern China are currently lifting coal supply restrictions. China plans to expand stimulus packages to achieve economic growth in Q2 2022. Due to forecasted power shortages this summer, the Chinese government proposed to accelerate the issuance of licenses for new coal projects, which meet safety standards.
A downturn in trading activity by Asian consumers, who are taking a wait-and-see attitude amid high prices, negatively impacted Australian quotations below 415 USD/t. European demand for Australian thermal coal also declined after stocks at ARA terminals hit five-year highs.
Australia’s key coal mining region Hunter Valley continues to be hampered by adverse weather conditions, reducing coal production and shipping schedules. Stormy weather disrupted loading at Newcastle and Kembla ports, both of which have been closed on May 31.
Indonesian 5900 GAR declined to 195 USD/t. The price of Indonesian material fell on lower demand from China. The start of the monsoon season in some parts of India also led to a decrease in purchases of Indonesian coal by Indian consumers.
With global steel prices falling, a number of major steelmakers in the Asia Pacific market took a wait-and-see attitude, waiting for a correction in quotations, that led to a drop in Australian metallurgical coal prices below 420 USD/t.