PERTH, March 1 Australian thermal coal benchmark
prices slipped this week as Chinese buying failed to pick up as
expected after the end of the Lunar New Year holiday last month.
Australia's Newcastle spot index dipped
slightly to $93.33 per tonne on Thursday, down from $93.94 per
tonne a week earlier, data from online trading platform
A 25,000 tonne cargo for April delivery traded at $94 per
tonne on Thursday.
Producers had been hoping that after a year of sluggish
demand from the world's largest coal consumer and producer,
Chinese buyers would buy more cargoes after the holiday, market
Still, China imports were up 56.8 percent year-on-year in
January, but down 13.2 percent from its December record,
government data showed earlier this week.
Chinese domestic coal prices fell to 624 yuan ($100), down
from 625 a week earlier. Chinese buyers often rely on imports
when domestic prices are high enough to make shipping coal into
the country economical.
Traders will also be closely following Japan's annual
negotiations for its largest thermal coal contract of the year.
The negotiations for the contract, which begins on April 1,
will start with Xstrata Plc next week in Japan.
The price agreed between Xstrata and Tohoku Electric
, negotiating on behalf of Japanese buyers, will set the
precedent for the rest of the industry.
"The producers aren't really showing their hand ahead of the
Japanese fiscal year negotiations (but) I don't think anyone is
short tonnes," one Australia-based trade source said.
The April 1 contract typically settles a few dollars above
the globalCOAL benchmark, with the a premium for supply