Metallurgical coal market traders and miners who met in Miami this week see Asia’s promise perking optimism after a run of price declines and bankruptcies.
Japanese and South Korean buyers of US met coals are said to be keeping up stable volumes, especially of high-vol, high-fluidity types. Colombian high-vol traders are sniffing out further Japanese business and trying to expand sales in Europe outside Turkey.
Japanese trading groups and Asian steel mill executives were in abundance at Coaltrans, to keep tabs on changing dynamics in the US and negotiate new contracts.
As Daniel Kimura of trading group Mitsui & Co. explained, the need to blend with lower quality coals has pushed up use of high-fluidity coals, and depletion of the Gregory mine in Australia is keeping interest up for US coals. Blackhawk and Arch Coal have signed new deals in Japan and South Korea.
For Europe, US met coal demand in on the wane, as some coke technicians have reduced usage of high-fluidity coals by experimenting more and not prioritizing CSR as much during weak steel utilization.
Tata Steel, a stalwart US coking coal buyer, is reducing volumes fast, with US PCI use in Europe under threat on Russian and Australian competitiveness.
Asian interest is good for now, with historic lows in freight rates, helping make the case for US high-vols being shipped halfway around the world.
As for shifts in the US industry footprint to accommodate lower demand, a miner said to expect big changes in the year ahead.
After several coking coal mine acquisitions and Chapter 11 filings in the past year, the market remains on a roller coaster ride.
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