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Friday, 08 February 19
LOWER-QUALITY INDONESIA EXPORTS ROSE 39 MT IN 2018 YOY PRIMARILY IN RESPONSE TO INCREASED DEMAND FROM CHINA AND INDIA - PEABODY
Peabody"Underlying seaborne met and thermal coal conditions remain quite positive and the pace of U.S. coal-fueled power plant retirements is expected to substantially ease in 2019, even as macro concerns of slowing global GDP growth, trade issues and easing commodity prices create cause for caution," said Peabody Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Amy Schwetz, as reported in Peabody Reports Earnings For Quarter and Year Ended December 31, 2018.
 
Continued tightness in seaborne thermal supply-demand dynamics in 2018 contributed to ongoing strength in the 6,000-specification Newcastle thermal price.  The fourth quarter average prompt Newcastle thermal price eased 10 percent from the third quarter 2018 to $105 per tonne.  The spread between the 6,000 Newcastle specification product and the lower-quality 5,500 product tightened to an average of approximately $42 per tonne in the fourth quarter compared to an average of approximately $48 per tonne in the third quarter. 
 
Quarter and Year Ended December 31, 2018 report of the Peabody further noted that, the ongoing importance of the Asia/Pacific region was again highlighted in 2018.  Despite import restrictions enacted by the Chinese government, Chinese thermal coal imports rose approximately 16 million tonnes in 2018, as domestic supply was outpaced by increased domestic power consumption, which grew at the highest rate since 2011.  India thermal coal imports increased 18 percent to 167 million tonnes as rising domestic coal production fell short of continued strong domestic demand.  In addition, ASEAN nations expanded imports by 19 million tonnes in 2018 to support ongoing urbanization.  Globally, coal-fueled power plants continue to be built, with approximately 56 gigawatts of new capacity added in 2018, with another some 60 gigawatts of additional capacity expected to come online in 2019.
 
On the supply-side, Peabody said, lower-quality Indonesia exports rose 39 million tonnes in 2018 over the prior year primarily in response to increased demand from China and India.  Both Australian and U.S. thermal coal exports remained strong, up 4 percent and an estimated 34 percent, respectively, year-over-year.  
 
Turning to metallurgical coal, premium hard coking coal spot pricing remained high in the fourth quarter, averaging $221 per tonne.  The fourth quarter index settlement price for premium hard coking coal was $212 per tonne compared to $192 per tonne in the prior year.  Pricing for the low-vol PCI product also continued its strength, with a fourth quarter benchmark settlement of $139 per tonne compared to $127.50 per tonne in the prior year.  Looking ahead to the first quarter 2019, the low-vol PCI benchmark price was set at $141 per tonne.  
 
Seaborne metallurgical coal supply/demand balance remains favorable.  India continues to demand metallurgical coal to meet its steel making needs, with metallurgical coal imports rising 5 percent in 2018 over the prior year.  However, Chinese metallurgical coal imports eased 5 million tonnes due to an increased reliance on domestic supplies and scrap steel usage.  Increased steel production from ASEAN nations also continues to support seaborne metallurgical coal demand. 
 
Even with continued strength in pricing, supply growth remains muted with metallurgical exports from Australia and the U.S. rising 7 million tonnes and an estimated 4 million tonnes, respectively in 2018.      
 
Within the U.S., a mix of higher seasonal demand, increased fourth quarter natural gas prices and ongoing strength in exports resulted in continued stockpile reductions despite substantial plant retirements in 2018. 
 
Total U.S. electricity generation rose 4 percent in 2018, while coal demand fell 4 percent.  However, a 16 million ton decline in total U.S. coal production and an estimated 18 million ton increase in U.S. thermal exports led to utility coal stockpiles falling 37 million tons since 2017, reaching the lowest levels since 2005.  As a result of continued strength in seaborne thermal coal pricing, the Illinois Basin is forecasted to be the largest thermal exporting region in the United States.


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