Australian Newcastle Thermal Coal Prices Fell 1.8% Last Week

Australian Newcastle Thermal Coal Prices Fell 1.8% Last Week

Export prices for power-station coal at Newcastle, Australia, the world’s largest coal-export harbor, fell 1.8 percent last week after major producers and buyers agreed contracts for 2007 supplies.

The weekly index of prices for thermal coal for immediate delivery from the port in New South Wales state slid 98 cents to $52.63 a metric ton in the week ended March 30, according to the globalCOAL NEWC Index. In February, the index reached a 29-month high on rising demand and shipping delays.

Australian shipments of power-station coal, known as thermal coal, have risen after China cut exports to meet its increasing domestic demand. Almost 90 percent of the coal shipped through Newcastle last year was thermal coal produced in the Hunter Valley in New South Wales state by mining companies such as Rio Tinto Group, Xstrata Plc and BHP Billiton Ltd.

The globalCOAL monthly index for Newcastle exports slipped 1.5 percent in March to $52.86. The weekly price has increased from as low as $41.10 in the second week of November.

In February, Hunter Valley mining companies voted to re- introduce an export quota system at Newcastle in a bid to reduce shipping delays. The number of ships waiting to load coal at Newcastle reached a record 69 in early March and was at 68 as of yesterday, one more than a week ago, the port said on its Web site. Newcastle port accounts for about one-third of Australia’s total coal-export capacity.

Thailand, China

Thirteen ships carrying coal left the port in the week ended March 31, five fewer than a week earlier, the port said yesterday in an e-mailed report. Seven of the vessels were headed for Japan, two for South Korea and one each for Thailand, China, Taiwan and Fremantle, Western Australia, it said.

Newcastle Port shipped 1.05 million tons of coal in the week ended 7 a.m. yesterday, down from the previous week. The port is budgeting shipments of 7.2 million tons for the full month.

Rio Tinto agreed to supply thermal coal to several customers for 2007 at prices in the mid-$50s a ton range, Rio Tinto Coal spokeswoman Nicole Ireland said Feb. 26. Xstrata Plc settled most contracts at about $55.50 a ton, Xstrata Coal spokesman James Rickards said last week.

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