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Kamis, 08 September 2011

China kicks off winter coal shopping, Indonesia wins - Reuters

Chinese coal buyers have re-emerged in the sea-borne market after a nearly two-month lull and were snapping up Indonesian coal on expectations that domestic prices were poised to increase, industry sources said on Wednesday.

Several miners and traders said Chinese buyers were aggressively buying Indonesian coal with heating value of about 4,800 kcal/kg (NAR) and paying between $87-$89 a tonne on a landed basis, up some $4 from late August.

"They are very aggressive in bidding prices and are exceptionally eager to sign prompt and Q4 cargoes. But it's still unclear if this buying spree would continue until the end of the year," said a Indonesian coal supplier, who has already sold out his fourth-quarter shipments.

The return of Chinese buyers means the recent gains in Indonesian sub-bituminous prices would accelerate over the coming weeks, as Indian buyers have already stepped up on enquiries ahead of the end of the monsoon season in around mid-September.

Buyers said a planned 20-day maintenance of the key Daqin railway, one of the main rails transporting coal from Shanxi, Shaanxi and Western Mongolia to Qinhuangdao port, later this month was one of the triggers that have prompted them to stock up on inventories earlier than usual.

Narrowing price declines in the key Bohai Bay Rim steam coal index over the past two weeks were also interpreted as a sign that domestic prices were at a turning point.

Their eagerness to procure was also bolstered by expectations that Indonesian prices would start to rise once the wet season hits, while supplies from Australia and South Africa could also be buoyed by returning Japanese demand and higher demand in parts of Europe.

"Utilities traditionally start winter shopping in October, but now the buying pattern has changed. Everyone is rushing to be the first buyer," Sun Xuefeng, a manager at Sinosteel Raw Materials, told the IHS-McCloskey conference on Wednesday.
"The thinking now is that first movers would have a price advantage."

Average weekly prices of coal with a heating value of 5,500 kcal/kg NAR fell 0.12 percent to 825 yuan a tonne last week.

Chinese buyers were generally showing tepid interest for standard Australian and South African material, citing high prices. However, some said they were in talks to buy some off-specification material, which typically has higher ash content.
Price bids for Australian off-spec material hover between $115-$117 a tonne CFR for those with heating value of 5,500 kcal/kg (NAR) -- a range in line with producer's expectations.

"The standard spec coal is too expensive at this point, especially with freight rates moving higher," said a trader from a state-owned producer and importer.
While a cape-sized prompt cargo of South African coal has been sold into China last week at $129.50 a tonne CFR, sources said the price was not reflective of buying sentiment and actual bids were several dollars lower.

"We're now waiting for freight rates to come down, which will help us move these cargoes. I don't think index prices will move down much," said a trader.
With domestic production growing at a rapid clip this year, three major Chinese buyers said it was unclear if domestic prices would rise strongly in winter, with slowing economic growth and energy saving measures also marring the near-term outlook.

An official from China Electricity Council said at the conference that power demand growth would slow in the second half as steel production cools, but added that hydropower generation remains a wild card which would tilt the supply balance and throw the country into another power crunch.

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