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US met coal prices continue to factor in shortages, domestic demand

Atlantic metallurgical coal markets did not react strongly to steep fallsin premium low-vol hard coking coal prices registered Monday, with US coalprices still supported by shortages and domestic forward demand.

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Premium low-vol HCC FOB Australia pricing fell following a long period ofno spot trading being reported outside of China.

Premium HCC pricing on a FOB Australia basis, with Monday's drop of$14/mt, has fallen more in line with pricing into China, using netback pricesfrom China CFR pricing with Panamax rates.

US high-vol A had been tracking Australian premium low-vol, and limitedhigh-vol A spot volume offers in March and April lent support to prices. Highvol-A had already been at a discount to premium low-vol coal prior Monday'smove, and remains lower, pricing in the shorter voyages to customers in Europeand Brazil than those for Australian and Canadian coals.

US steel import tariffs may add to domestic demand for coal and coke,particularly for better quality high-vol and mid-vol grades. US offers may besupported until there is further visibility on additional domestic volumes andpricing, as well as how neighboring markets in Canada and Mexico respond.

US high-vol B for delivery outside the S&P Global Platts spot laycan,currently for loadings in March and April, heard offered into a Europeantender was indicated in the high $130s/mt to mid-$150s/mt, FOB basis. Thisreflected a range of quality, and slightly higher volatile matter.

Platts assessed US high-vol A, based on 32% volatile matter, 1.1%reflectance straight coal, with low ash and sulfur and CSR typically in thelow 60s, down $2 at $215/mt FOB USEC.

US East Coast low-vol HCC fell 50 cents/mt to $199/mt FOB.

The US high-vol B assessment, based on 34% VM unblended product, eased50 cents/mt to $148/mt FOB USEC.

The Australian Premium Low Vol net forward assessment fell $14.05/mt to$227.15/mt CFR Rotterdam.

Meantime, the Australian market is braced for further rail disruption inQueensland as a result of Aurizon's decision to limit some rail movements andservice in line with revised maintenance plans after a revenue cap.

A source said capacity reductions are spreading to those servicing mineson the main Goonyella line. This may end up being more complicated thandisruptions on the Blackwater line into Gladstone port, due to haulagerequirements at mines on Queensland's main rail artery.

Out of Gladstone, exports of second-tier coking coal and PCI are said tohave been slowed down by rail and weather disruption. The premium for PLV, ona FOB Australia basis, with HCC 64 index stood at $15.15/mt on Monday,compared with February's average of a $37.57/mt premium to PLV.

In the futures market, the Singapore Exchange forward curve fell furtherat the Asian close Monday, after steep falls on Friday.

Trading on Monday totaled 30,000 mt, after 68,000 mt went through afterhours Friday.

The Q2 2018 contract's daily settlement price fell $3 to $211/mt atthe close.

The SGX March settlement price fell $2 to $222/mt, and April dropped $3to $215/mt.

The Platts TSI Premium Hard Coking Coal reference price used forsettlement on the SGX's coking coal futures fell $3.90/mt to $221.70/mt FOBAustralia.

--Hector Forster, hector.forster@spglobal.com

--Edited by Keiron Greenhalgh, keiron.greenhalgh@spglobal.com