US coal exports reached their highest level in six months in October, propelled by steady trading with Asia and Europe.
International shipments climbed to 10.7mn short tons (9.69mn metric tonnes) from 9.13mn st a year earlier, data released today from the US Census Bureau show. That was the highest level of exports since April, when 11.1mn st of US coal was exported.
Metallurgical coal was the primary driver for the October increase. Volumes recovered from a decline in September, when shipments were disrupted by storms along the US east coast and Gulf of Mexico. Coking coal shipments reached 5.84mn st in October, from 4.09mn st the prior month and 4.6mn st a year earlier.
Thermal coal exports also increased from a year earlier, to 4.85mn st from 4.53mn st in October 2017. But they were lower than September’s 5.4mn st, which had been a five-and-half-year high.
The month-on-month decrease for steam coal was largely a result of reduced shipments to Asia. Exports to India slipped to 923,758st from 1.44mn st, which had been the second-highest level in history. That was still above October 2017’s 889,522st.
Thermal coal exports to Japan also lagged September levels but were higher than they had been a year earlier. They totaled 422,752st, compared with 496,564st in September and 152,299st in October 2017.
Steam coal exports to the Netherlands rose to 937,616st from 626,446st a year earlier and 930,960st in September. Shipments to the UK tripled from October 2017, to 581,184st. They also were higher than September’s 507,171st.
Total thermal coal exports to Europe increased to 2.35mn st from 2.03mn st a year earlier. Shipments to Asia dipped to 1.68mn st from 1.76mn st a year earlier.
Exports for the month reflected still-elevated prices and demand. Thermal coal volumes for the end of this year could be lower as tight supply, declines in seaborne prices in November, and the drop off in Indian and Chinese coal demand have drawn US coal out of global markets.
Argus assessments for prompt two-month exports of 11,300 Btu/lb typical 3pc sulfur coal dropped by nearly 21pc over the course of November, to $54/t fob New Orleans. Prices have since recovered slightly, as European-delivered markets moved higher, but remain at levels at which it may be more profitable for producers to ship any spot tonnage available to domestic customers instead of international.
Coking coal prices have been steady. Prompt three-month shipments of low-volatile US coal fluctuated between $204/t fob Hampton Roads and $205/t last month. Argus assessed the market at $205.50/t fob on 4 December.
US metallurgical coal shipments to Asia jumped to 1.83mn st from 1.11mn st a year earlier. That was lead by exports to Japan, which more than tripled to 1.07mn st. Exports to Turkey, Korea and India also increased.
Coking coal volumes to Europe rose to 2.83mn st from 2.39mn st. That was the second-highest level this year. Shipments to the Netherlands jumped to 747,646st from just 42,439st a year earlier. Increased exports to Italy, France and Austria also offset decreases to the Ukraine, Sweden, Spain and elsewhere.
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- On December 7, 2018