US coal shipments abroad totaled 9.65mn short tons (8.75mn metric tonnes) in May, up by 33.2pc from a year earlier.
That represented the 19th straight month of year-over-year gains.
May exports were down from April’s five-year high, but still represented the second-highest export level in nearly five years. The last time exports were as high, before April of this year, was in October 2013 when they totaled 9.85mn st. A continuation of the trend should keep exporters on track to have the strongest year for US coal shipments abroad since 2013.
Shipments to Europe rose for just the second time this year, growing by 29.3pc to 3.16mn st in the month.
But concerns remain around the potential effects of the trade war on US coal exports. Some European utilities have been reluctant to buy from the US. They are awaiting various countries’ responses to the US tariffs on steel and aluminum and trying to figure out how much more expensive that will make US coal. That could weigh on US export results later in the year.
In addition, China today imposed a retaliatory tariff on $34bn/yr of US imports.
US coal exports to China, while small compared with other major Asian customers, are already down year-on-year.
Shipments carrying 182,694st of coal left US ports heading for China in May, down by 5.4pc from May 2017. In the first five months of the year US exporters sent 1.55mn st of coal to China, down from 3.96mn st in the same period of last year. China imposed import restrictions on some southern ports in April and this week expanded the restrictions to one of its ports in the north.
Shipments to Asia increased slightly more than overall exports, rising by 38.7pc to 3.86mn st in the month.
That was driven in large part by shipments to India, the US’ main customer, which more than doubled to 1.42mn st in May from 692,730st a year ago. Exports to India represented nearly 15pc of all US coal exports in the month. But India has also threatened to slap tariffs on US goods. Most of the shipments to India — 937,165st or 65.8pc of the total — were thermal coal.
The US tariffs on steel could have an outsized effect on coking coal exports, which rose by 22.1pc to 5.57mn st in the month and made up 57.8pc of US coal exports.
Among the major buyers of US coking coal, shipments to Brazil rose by 29pc to 801,965st and made up 14.3pc of the metallurgical coal exports in the month. Metallurgical exports to China fell by 40.2pc to 181,881st.
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- On July 9, 2018