Goldman lifts coal price view after frenzied rally on China's reform push

(Reuters) - Goldman Sachs has sharply raised its price forecasts for coking coal for the next two years, after this year’s frenzied rally fueled by a shortage in China that should revive idled mines from Mozambique to the United States.

China’s push to tackle a coal glut by imposing a 276-day cap on domestic coal mines earlier this year created a significant deficit, lifting the country’s coking coal imports by 18 percent over January to August. [MTL/CHINA9]

The spot price of Australian premium hard coking coal has surged 164 percent this year to $206.40 a tonne on Thursday, making the commodity the best performing among those covered by Goldman.

Goldman has increased its 2017 forecast for premium hard coking coal from Australia’s Queensland by 64 percent to $135 a tonne. It raised its 2018 estimate by 47 percent to $125.

“In our view, the impact of Chinese government policies on the global market will continue long after production volumes have recovered,” Goldman analysts Christian Lelong and Callum Bruce said in a report.

While Chinese policy makers will eventually have to relax production limits, supply-side reforms aimed at ensuring the survival of domestic miners should result in a higher equilibrium price for seaborne coal, they said.

“The main beneficiaries of higher-than-expected seaborne demand are the United States, Australia and Mozambique.”

The resumption of idled U.S. mines is likely to boost export volumes and help reverse a multi-year drop, while higher prices should encourage a 22-million-tonne coal project in Moatize, Mozambique to be fully operational, the analysts said.

Surging coal prices are prompting many Chinese steel mills to opt for higher grade iron ore to boost efficiency and use less coal, forcing suppliers of low-grade ore from India and Iran to offer deep discounts to attract buyers.

Reporting by Manolo Serapio Jr. from Dalian; Editing by Himani Sarkar