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China Coal Imports to Fall With Domestic Prices, Bernstein Says

China will cut coal imports this year as the cost of domestic supplies declines, Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. said in a report.

Net purchases from overseas will drop 47 percent to 150 million metric tons this year from 281 million in 2012, Bernstein said in the e-mailed note today. Average domestic benchmark prices will fall 7 percent, it said.

China, the world’s largest consumer and producer of coal, is undergoing a structural slowdown in power-consumption growth just as the capacity for production and transport of coal increases, according to Bernstein. Domestic prices will slide through 2015, while still being susceptible to “seasonal bumps,” Bernstein said.

“We believe that Chinese coal imports are likely to fall in absolute terms in 2013 as lower-priced domestic supply pushes out imports,” Michael Parker, a Hong Kong-based analyst at Bernstein, said in the report. “Over that entire time, we expect coal prices to trend downward. There is plenty of supply available both domestically and from the seaborne market if coal prices creep back up.”

The average price of coal with an energy value of 5,500 kilocalories per kilogram at the Chinese port of Qinhuangdao will slip to 650 yuan ($105) a ton this year and in 2014, compared with 699 yuan in 2012, Parker predicted.

The fuel traded in a range of 620 yuan to 630 yuan a ton as of yesterday, according to data today from the China Coal Transport and Distribution Association.

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