March 1, 2013 / 10:16 AM / in 5 years

Asia Coal-Australian prices dip on low Chinese demand

PERTH, March 1 (Reuters) - 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 globalCOAL showed.

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 sources said.

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 security.

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