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Spot market weighing on European thermal coal futures: sources

CIF ARA thermal coal futures were in a lessening backwardation in the first full month of 2018 trading, due mainly to a lack of prompt support from low spot market activity, according to sources.

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The prompt month contract fell over $8 in the first month of trading, having opened the year strongly at $95.35/mt, supported by firm bidding at the end of December.

Sources said this flattening of the curve was due to major European utility traders showing minimal spot market interest, having seen only two reported trades in the CIF ARA 6,000 kcal/kg NAR 15-60 day market in the first month of 2018.

A Singapore-based trader said with most European utilities covered by contracts for the winter, the front half of the curve flattened with Q4-18 contract showing some upward movement on traditional winter buying.

A UK-based broker said the "very weak" physical market in Europe had been the main cause of the poor performance in the front of the curve in January.

The spread between the prompt month contract and year-ahead contract more than halved over the first month of trading to $4.25/mt from $9.30/mt.

Mild weather at the start of year and pressures from longer-term coal phase outs in Europe also pressured the back of the curve, with the Cal-19 contract losing $3 in the first month of 2018 trading.

--Piers De Wilde, piers.de.wilde@spglobal.com