South African coal price surge, while others languish, is troubling

By Clyde Russell | Reuters

LAUNCESTON, Australia, Dec 5 (Reuters) – Coal prices around the world are gently sliding as demand from top importers such as China, India and even Europe remains subdued amid a so far mild northern winter. However, there is one exception.

South African coal export prices at Richards Bay have surged in recent months, defying market fundamentals and seemingly without logical explanation.

The daily Richards Bay index, as assessed by commodity price reporting agency Argus, jumped 44% from $56.54 a tonne on Sept. 25 to a recent high of $81.30 on Nov. 28.

It has since retreated slightly to end on Wednesday at $81.30 a tonne, but the Richards Bay outperformance over other benchmarks has been staggering.

The price of thermal coal delivered into northwest Europe dropped 16% from a recent high of $64.07 a tonne on Sept. 16 to the close on Wednesday of $54.04.

The weekly index for benchmark Australian thermal coal at Newcastle port has traded sideways in recent months, going from $63.22 a tonne in the week to Sept. 27 to $65.31 in the week to Nov. 29…Full Story