Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg

European Coal Prices Slump to a Record Low

  • Demand has slumped globally, especially in top user China
  • Regulations, strong dollar hurting coal miners in the U.S.

European coal for 2016 dropped below $50 a metric ton for the first time amid slumping demand from China, the biggest consumer.

Prices have declined 26 percent so far in 2015, heading for a fifth straight year of drops in the benchmark year-ahead contract, according to broker data compiled by Bloomberg. The slump came as lackluster global demand with diminished prospects for growth, including a 35 percent drop in Chinese coal imports from January to July, combined with plenty of available low-cost supply, according to Societe Generale SA.

“Until now the only support for coal has been the psychological barrier at $50, after this there is a no-man’s land from a technical perspective,” Danny Graefe, an energy trader at AVU AG fuer Versorgungs-Unternehmen, said by e-mail from Gevelsberg, Germany. “Fundamentally, coal should have bottomed out, but even still all news points downward.”

Coal for delivery next year to Rotterdam, Amsterdam or Antwerp, fell as much as 0.7 percent to $49.90 a metric ton before trading at $50.10 by 12:25 p.m. London time, according to broker data compiled by Bloomberg. The contract for 2016 has slumped 57 percent from $116.75 when it first traded in October 2012.

The drop has hurt exporters including the U.S., where producers are facing mounting environmental and mining regulations as well as a strong dollar that has marooned the fuel to the domestic market. Miners producing 80 percent of the best-quality U.S. coal are either for sale or in bankruptcy, George Dethlefsen, chief executive officer of Corsa Coal Corp., said on Sept. 18.

Prices may now start to stabilize as colder weather boosts demand, the dollar stops strengthening and an ‘unsustainable’ high level of mine use in the Atlantic region ends, Georgi Slavov, head of research at Marex Spectron Ltd. said in a research note Monday.

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