* China still buying, still re-negotiating
* Indian spot buying dries up
LONDON, May 30 (Reuters) - European prompt physical coal prices eased by up to $1.00 a tonne on Wednesday as the market, disconcerted by an unexpectedly high trade the previous day, seeks to gauge how bearish the new near-term outlook is.
China is still buying prompt coal cargoes at around $100 a tonne delivered but re-negotiating more, while Indian spot buying has almost dried up.
“Customers don’t want anything now so we have no need to buy,” one of India’s biggest trader importers said.
The market is trying to work out whether Tuesday’s trade at $90 for DES ARA - a leap of $5 from the most recent trade prior to that - was anomalous or a sign of strengthening.
Players are looking for clear bullish or bearish signals and finding few of either.
“There’s confusion at the front end, nobody seems very sure if the market’s strengthening genuinely or is it just a move up on paper,” a utility source said.
South African prompt prices dipped by around $1.00 a tonne but remained close to $90.00 and were seen as fairly stable.
A July South African cargo was bid at $89.40 and offered at $91.00, down around $1.00.
News last Monday of Chinese defaults and price majeure - a coal market term for one party’s refusal to honour a contracted price - on coal and iron ore cargoes gave the market a shock, although many players had been quietly re-negotiating prices for months.
“I don’t know exactly how many cargoes have been defaulted on or had price majeure but it is a substantial number, we’ve heard of many cases recently,” one European trader said.
Even suppliers who have sold indirectly to China, with Chinese counterparties as the ultimate buyer in a chain of trades, have experienced delays to loadings while haggling over prices has gone on.
Singapore-based traders Klandee are being pursued for losses after Chinese buyers defaulted on contracts in 2011 .
CMC, the marketing arm of Cerrejon, one of Colombia’s two largest exporters, is seeking to recover the full price of a cargo cancelled in Q4 which was sold to Klandee and sold on to a Chinese buyer who defaulted.
Bulk Trading and Klandee are claiming and counter-claiming losses from each other after a different Chinese buyer failed to open a Letter of Credit to allow a South African cargo to load on time - it was delayed by 30 days.
But now the majority of prompt cargoes into China are being re-priced and taken by their original buyers or other Chinese buyers, at current spot prices, traders and suppliers said.
“I think you’ll find that these Chinese cargoes will get washed out or absorbed, it’s nothing to do with the economy cooling, it’s the same price majeure a s ever when the market falls,” another trader said.
Although China’s utilities and handful of large, trader importers tend to buy on a prompt, spot basis, a large number of cargoes have already been sold for June and July delivery at prices far above current levels, suppliers said.
“I think you’ll see more problems, more re-negotiation for the next two months even though at the same time we are seeing fresh demand - at current prices,” another European trader said.
A July delivery DES ARA cargo traded at $3.25 a tonne below API2 swaps on Wednesday, having traded at $90.00 a tonne or $2.50 below swaps on the previous day.
A June loading South African cargo traded at $1.10 above API4 swaps.
An August DES ARA cargo was bid at $89.00, unchanged.
A July DES ARA cargo was bid at $84.00 and offered at $88.00, down $6.00 from Tuesday’s traded level.
A July South African cargo was bid at $89.40 and offered at $91.00, down around $1.00. (Reporting by Jacqueline Cowhig; Editing by Anthony Barker)