US coal exports fell again in August as pressure on both thermal and metallurgical seaborne markets intensified, government data show.
Shipments fell to 7.71mn short tons (6.99mn metric tonnes) from 9.99mn st in August 2018, according the US Census Bureau. The decrease kept year-to-date shipments about 17pc below 2018 levels but still above 2017 exports.
Both metallurgical and thermal coal volumes lagged year-earlier levels as prices and demand fell. Prices for US thermal coal were $25-$28/t lower at the start of August than they were a year earlier and mostly below the levels at which coal producers can make a profit selling internationally.
Metallurgical coal markets, which had been more resilient than thermal coal in the first half of the year, also started to falter. Prompt three-month shipments of high-volatile type A coal started August at $160/t fob Hampton Roads, about $13/t below year-earlier levels.
US coking coal exports fell to 5.02mn st in August from 5.52mn st in the same month of 2018.
Non-metallurgical shipments decreased to 2.68mn st from 4.47mn st. Bituminous thermal coal exports declined to just over 2mn st from 3.71mn st. Sub-bituminous volumes fell less dramatically, by 4.7pc to 669,656t.
Weakness was spread throughout the globe. Thermal coal exports to Asia dropped by 35pc to 1.35mn st.
Declines in Asia were led by a nearly 590,000st drop in exports to India, to 315,484st, as demand from the country continued to dwindle. That was the fourth straight year-over-year decrease in US shipments to India.
Shipments to Japan and South Korea also decreased in August when compared with year-earlier levels.
Steam coal exports to Europe dropped in half to 604,101st. And shipments to Africa and the Americas declined to 396,524st and 329,384st, respectively, from 412,743st and 764,502st a year earlier.
Metallurgical coal exports were more uneven. Decreases in volumes to Europe and Africa offset gains to Asia and the Americas.
Coking coal shipments to Europe, the primary destination for US metallurgical coal, plunged to 2.07mn st in August from 2.88mn st a year earlier. European buyers were largely out of the market at the start of the second half of 2019 following decreases in steel production.
More recently, US producers have scaled back output, which could further limit coking coal shipments in coming months.
Metallurgical exports to Asia and the Americas rose by 40pc and 9.3pc, respectively, in August, to 1.56mn st and 1.14mn st.
Coking coal shipments to Africa dipped to 254,232st from 486,702st.
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- On October 8, 2019