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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

China coal imports fall 8pc

SHANGHAI: China January coal imports fell 8 percent from the previous month to 19.65 million tonnes, a second straight month of decline as lower domestic prices and cooling demand hit orders, an industry website said on Tuesday, citing customs data.

With the steel industry plagued by slumping orders, imports of coking coal, a key steel making ingredient, tumbled 30 percent in January from a month ago to just 3.45 million tonnes the lowest since August when shipments were at 3.28 million, according to trade portal China Energy Net (

On an annual basis, January's coal imports were still up 3.9 percent, the report said.

After soaring to a record high of 22.14 million tonnes in November, China's coal imports have steadily fallen as a government imposed price ceiling of 800 yuan ($130) a tonne for spot coal prices in late November caused domestic prices to fall precipitously.

Coupled with weaker demand on the back of a cooling economy, domestic spot coal prices have fallen for 13 consecutive weeks and shed 70 yuan since November to 777 yuan a tonne.

With Chinese utilities and traders having piled up on stocks in the fourth quarter, the swift drop in local prices have made imports unattractive.

Traders said business has been slow and are looking for signs of a rebound in the second quarter, when utilities are expected to restock after winter sucks up inventories and industrial activity picks up.

"A lot of the shipments were deals done in early November. The market is very quiet now and bids that are streaming in for March and April are really low," said a Shanghai-based trader.

Bids for Australian coal with a heating value of 5,500 kcal/kg NAR were currently hovering at around $104 a tonne (CFR), down from around $110 a week ago.

"Offers have been falling by around $3-$5 on a weekly basis and will probably stay that way until the Chinese return and who knows when that will be," said a Singapore-based trader.

China Energy Net said total bituminous coal imports in January were 6.49 million tonnes, down 20 percent from a month ago, while volumes for anthracite and lignite were at 2.51 million and 3.28 million, respectively.

The customs agency will publish the final trade data later on Tuesday at 1430 local time (0630 GMT).

(sourced: Reuters &

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