* Increased Chinese interest seen ahead of winter
* Indonesian rains tighten regional supplies
By Rebekah Kebede
PERTH, Oct 29 Australia's thermal coal prices, a benchmark for Asia, rose over $1 a tonne during the last week as continuing concern about wet weather in both Indonesia and Australia as well as Chinese buying interest boosted prices.
Thermal coal on the globalCOAL Newcastle index for the week to date was $100.48 per tonne for prompt delivery on Friday, up from $99.03 a week earlier.
Chinese interest in importing coal has ramped up in recent weeks as it prepares for winter, helping boost the index price, traders said. [ID:nSGE69S0AL]
China, the world's largest consumer of coal, is stocking up on coal ahead of what promises to be a chilly winter and also in preparation for the Asian Games, which the nation will host in November.
However, Chinese buying interest resulted in few deals, with offers unattractively low, and which has affected the psychology of the Australian market, one Singapore-based broker said.
Despite China's interest in coal for the winter, thermal coal on the globalCOAL Newcastle Index for November delivery dipped during the week to $104.50 tonne on Friday, while December deliveries were at $102.25 per tonne.
Production losses due to rains in Indonesia also continue to tighten supplies in the region, with many producers reporting that they have fallen five to ten percent short of their production targets.
Rains in Queensland have also hit some Australian coal production in the past few months, but the weather has mostly hit coking coal, with thermal coal producers not as affected.
However, an intense cyclone season this year will likely hit thermal coal mines as well and tighten supply significantly, traders and analysts said.
A strong La Nina weather system, which brings higher rainfall over the western Pacific is expected to bring six to seven cyclones in the coal-producing northeast, up from an average of four, according to the national weather bureau. [ID:nSGE69I02V]
Australia's cyclone season lasts from November through April.
Chinese demand will remain in focus in the long-term, with the market waiting to see if utilities increase offer prices to market levels.
The market continues to seek additional clarification on Indonesia's decree that would allow miners to sell low-quality coal below government reference prices this year. [ID:nJAK261747]
Australian and Indonesian will be closely watched, with those in the industry looking out for further indications on the 2010/11 cyclone season. (Editing by Ed Lane)
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