| SHANGHAI, March 11
SHANGHAI, March 11 Australian thermal coal
benchmark prices fell for the fourth straight week to below $92
per tonne as demand from top buyer China was soft and as
regional buyers retreated as they expected prices to fall more
during the seasonal demand lull.
A rise in international freight rates, along with falling
domestic prices in China, where stockpiles at major utilities
are hovering at levels equivalent to nearly 30 days of
consumption, also weighed on prices, traders said.
Australia's Newcastle spot index fell 1.6
percent from a week ago to $91.96 per tonne on Friday -- the
lowest since late November, data from online trading platform
"There are very few transactions. Buyers are staying away
from the market because they expect prices to head further
south," said a Singapore-based trader.
Climbing freight rates, which saw the Baltic Exchange's main
sea freight index rise 8.6 percent last week, also
pressured free-on-board prices from Australia, traders said.
Freight rates for panamax-sized vessels from Australia's
Newcastle port to Guangzhou's Huangpu terminal have risen about
$0.50 from a week ago to between $15-$17.00 a tonne.
Ongoing term contract negotiations between Australian coal
producers and Japanese power utilities, which sets a price
benchmark for North Asian buyers, has also led utilities to stay
on the sidelines, traders said.
In China, falling domestic prices also weighed on sentiment.
The price of steam coal with a heating value of 5,500
kcal/kg (NAR) fell 5 yuan from week ago to between 615-625 yuan
($100) a tonne on Sunday, data from top coal port Qinhuangdao
showed. Port stocks rose 25,200 tonnes to 7.45 million tonnes on
Chinese demand in the seaborne market has remained quiet
since the Lunar New Year holiday ended, traders said, with rates
for 5,500 kcal/kg Australian coal with April to May delivery
quoted at around $87 a tonne on a cost and freight basis.
That compares to bids of around $86 a tonne by Chinese
"Stocks are high and utilities have already imported so much
in the past few months. I don't think there's any appetite to
build stocks now unless the prices are very attractive," said a
Combined coal stocks held by six major power generation
companies in eastern and southern China rose 0.6 percent to 17.6
million tonnes early last week, Qinhuangdao Port said in a
weekly report on Thursday.
The stocks held by Zhejiang Power, Shanghai Power, Guangdong
Power, Guodian, Datang and Huaneng will be able to last for 29.4
days of consumption, down 4.5 days week-on-week, the report
($1 = 6.2147 Chinese yuan)
(Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)