* Q2/Q3 CIF ARA price seen at $110/T - SocGen
* Market waits for Japan settlements, China buying
LONDON, March 20 (Reuters) - Prices of prompt physical coal were largely unchanged again on Tuesday with coal lacking clear direction from fundamentals but macro factors such as China growth worries could start to erode prices, utilities and traders said.
Bids and offers were again too far apart to trade and both buyers and sellers were uncertain of the market’s strength.
No fresh trades were reported.
“Everybody’s trying to figure out how to make money in this market, which is barely moving, so for some to make a slim margin on U.S. coal to Asia is better than nothing or almost nothing,” one European trader said.
More fixed price trades, a term contract settlement price between Australian producers and Japanese utilities and some resumption of Chinese buying would give the market a sharper picture of coal’s value, they said.
The fundamental situation in the coal market has not significantly changed for months, Societe Generale said in a research note on Tuesday.
CIF ARA prices are forecast at $110 a tonne for Q2 and Q3, a slightly bearish view, SocGen said.
“It is characterised by steady but not explosive demand and inventory overhang... We do not expect this situation to change much over the coming months barring an exceptionally hot Asian summer or abnormal tropical rains,” SocGen said.
If demand falters and new supply proves to be inelastic, prices could drop abruptly even though they are unlikely to remain below $100 a tonne for long, the bank said.
Renewed concerns about China’s economic growth weighed on global stocks on Tuesday, giving a boost to safe-haven assets such as U.S. government bonds and the dollar.
Global coal prices are heavily dependent upon whether China imports on a large scale or not and this in turn depends on whether domestic coal is cheaper than imports.
PRICES A May South African cargo was bid at $103.50 and offered at $104.25, unchanged.
A June South African cargo was bid at $104.50. An April DES ARA cargo was bid at $90.00 and offered at $96.00, down $3.00 on the bid but unchanged on the offer.
A May DES ARA cargo was bid at $95.00 and offered at $98.50, little changed. (Reporting by Jacqueline Cowhig; editing by Keiron Henderson)