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China 2011 Coal Imports Rise 11%, China Coal Transport Says

China’s coal imports were near November’s record high last month, and its foreign coal purchases increased 11 percent in 2011, according to data from the China Coal Transport and Distribution Association.

China imported 21.38 million metric tons of coal in December, up 23 percent from a year earlier and down 3.4 percent from November, the association said on its website today, citing customs data. Purchases from overseas totaled 182.4 million tons in 2011, it said. The customs bureau is scheduled to release official coal import data on Jan. 21.

The world’s largest energy consumer increased coal imports to take advantage of cheaper foreign supplies and to raise stockpiles ahead of the Lunar Chinese New Year.

Imports in January and February may fall after China imposed caps on domestic spot prices starting Jan. 1, David Fang, a Beijing-based director with the association, said by telephone. Foreign purchases will rise as much as 10 percent this year amid strong demand for power and higher prices for domestic coal compared with international rates, he said.

China’s benchmark thermal-coal price at Qinhuangdao port fell for a seventh week to a range of 780 yuan ($123.53) to 795 yuan a ton as of Jan. 15, the association said yesterday. Thermal coal at the Australian port of Newcastle, the benchmark price for Asia, rose to $114.15 on Jan. 13, the highest level in two months, according to IHS McCloskey data.

China’s power consumption may increase more slowly this year, with growth falling to about 8.5 percent from almost 12 percent in 2011, the official Xinhua news agency reported Jan. 11. The nation will add 200 million tons to coal-production capacity this year, compared with 95 million tons in 2011, according to the National Energy Administration.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jing Yang in Shanghai at jyang251@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Alexander Kwiatkowski at akwiatkowsk2@bloomberg.net

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