The price of coal used to generate electricity in Asia may rebound after its biggest decline in six years as China imports unprecedented amounts of the fuel to power its growing economy.
Thermal coal at the Australian port of Newcastle, the benchmark price for Asia, may average A$120 (Dh123.30) a metric ton this year, according to the median of five analyst estimates in a Bloomberg News survey. Prices slipped 12 per cent to $111.35 in 2011, the biggest annual drop since 2005 and the first since 2008, IHS McCloskey data show. Prices rose 46 per cent in 2010. "It's more about at what price China will absorb more tons rather than how much will they import," Hayden Atkins, an analyst at Macquarie Group in London, said in an email. "China remains the wildcard."
Newcastle coal rose to the highest level in almost three years in January 2011 as the flooding in the state of Queensland cut exports by 33 per cent. Prices have since slid as China's buying eased and the availability of supplies from South Africa undercut Australian shipments, according to Peter Richardson, chief metals economist at Morgan Stanley in Melbourne.
"We saw a big import increase in China as well as a lift in domestic production, which effectively ended when inventories were rebuilt, and as a consequence, the market was much better supplied," said Richardson.
overseas supply sought
China's highest domestic coal prices in more than two years relative to Newcastle supplies, combined with an increase in the amount utilities can charge customers for their power, has encouraged electricity producers to seek more supply from overseas just as unfavourable weather limits output. The La Nina weather system, which contributed to flooding at Australian mines a year ago, is bringing heavier-than-normal rainfall to the country again, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.