* Australian weather concerns continue to weigh
* Hunter Valley minimally impacted by rains
By Rebekah Kebede
PERTH, Dec 22Australia's thermal coal prices,
a benchmark for Asia, climbed to a 2010 high over $120 per
tonne this week, as rains in delay loadings and a cold snap in
Europe boosted demand.
Thermal coal on the globalCOAL Newcastle index rose to a
2010 high of $123.50 for the week to date on Monday, up from
$118.75 a week earlier.
Continuing concerns about the impact of wet weather in
Australia as well as Indonesia pushed prices up, market
Torrential rains in Australia have soaked the northeastern
coal-producing state of Queensland, forcing several companies
to declare force majeure. Queensland produces mostly coking
coal used for steel-making but also produces some thermal
Concerns about wet weather impacting the Hunter Valley in
Australia's New South Wales state, where much of Australia's
thermal coal exports are produced, are mounting, traders and
The Hunter Valley Coal Chain has experienced some minor
impacts from wet weather in the coal-producing Hunter Valley
which has had some effect on the coal coming into the Port
Waratah Coal terminal.
"There have been some routine or minor impacts due to the
wet weather," said Matthew Watson, spokesman for the Hunter
Valley Coal Chain Coordinator.
"There is a feeling that the minimal delays that have been
experienced will be made back in due course."
The unseasonably wet weather in Australia has been
attributed to a La Nina weather event which the Australian
weather bureau said on Wednesday may be at its peak.
Indonesian producers continue to scramble to meet
contracts after their deliveries were delayed by heavy rains.
Australia and Indonesia's supply problems come just as
producers in South America are being hit by severe weather,
with one Venezuelan mine declaring force majeure early this
month and more force majeures expected from major producers in
As supplies tighten, prices are expected to continue
A Japanese power utility short supplies for January
recently bought coal above the $120 per tonne level for
January, according to a trade source, and while offers for
February tonnes climbed as high as $127 per tonne.
The Newcastle index shows tonnes for January around the
$124 to $124.50 level.
The market will keep its eye on global weather forecasts
to gauge if winter demand coal will be above normal levels as
well as to determine if major producers will experience
further supply disruptions.
Coal market watchers will keep an eye on the Hunter
Valley, where much of Australia's thermal coal exports are
produced. So far, the region has been minimally affected by
rains, but torrential rains similar to those being experienced
in Queensland could see prices hike much higher.
(Reporting by Rebekah Kebede; Additional reporting by Fitri
Wulandari; Editing by Ed Lane)