Asia Coal-Australia thermal coal prices drop, buyers scarce

PERTH Thu Dec 1, 2011 3:57pm IST

PERTH Dec 1 (Reuters) - Australia's thermal coal prices, the benchmark for Asia, fell to around $111 per tonne during the past week as North Asia demand continued to flounder despite the approach of winter.

Thermal coal on the global COAL Newcastle index for the week to date closed at $111.04 per tonne on Wednesday, down from $113.21 per tonne a week earlier.

"We are not hearing additional inquiries from the northern hemisphere," one Sydney-based market source said. "Major customers like Japan have already secured cargoes through the end of March."

Markets shrugged off a drop in Australian thermal coal shipments from Newcastle port due to planned maintenance and wet weather.

"There are some coal mines in the Gunnedah (region) that are a bit wet, but nothing long-term. A couple of vessels got pushed back five days. As far as supply and demand, it doesn't change much," another Sydney-based market source said.

A bridge collapse on a river in Borneo, Indonesia that is used for shipments of coal also did not budge prices.

Indonesian miner Harum Energy declared force majeure on prompt coal deliveries to some clients Bayan Resources said it expected delays to coal shipments. Other companies contacted by Reuters said they were not affected.

In China, the domestic coal price benchmark was slightly lower at 847 yuan ($130) per tonne during the last week, down from 850 yuan the previous week, according to the weekly Bohai-Rim Bay thermal coal price index published Wednesday.

Demand for coal from China, which is the world's largest producer and consumer of the fuel, has dropped in recent months, putting pressure on prices regionally.

Two traders reported that although they were receiving quite a number of inquiries for cargoes, there was a wide spread of around $2 per tonne between bids and offers.

Chinese market players also saw little impact from the bridge collapse in Indonesia.

Chinese buyers said a closure of up to a month would not have a big impact on prices, but that if barge traffic delays drag on for more than a month, supply in the region could tighten. ($1=6.3789 Chinese yuan) (Additional reporting by Fayen Wong in Shanghai; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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