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Global thermal coal markets 'bottom out' as supply contracts: consultancy

London — Global thermal coal markets have largely "bottomed out" following a steep drop in the first half of 2019, although supply contraction will likely need to continue over the rest of the year and into 2020 to achieve global rebalancing, industry consultant Perret Associates said in its long-term forecast Friday.

Some Asia-Pacific countries including Vietnam and India continue to record growth as Mediterranean and Atlantic demand falls by the wayside. Overall, despite increasing demand from some Asian countries, global oversupply remains at around 19 million mt, London-based Perret said. The consultancy had pegged oversupply at 24 million mt back in May.

Perret said this drop in oversupply confirms "our views the scenario of a gradual rebalancing of the market this year we have been envisaging since March-April 2019."

US coal exports are expected to fall to 33 million mt in 2019 and potentially only 20 million mt in 2020, Perret said. The country exported 49.1 million mt in 2018, according to S&P Global Platts Analytics and US Census Bureau data.

Colombian exports are expected to drop to 75 million mt in 2019, down 4.5 million mt from last year, Perret said.

On the demand side, EU-15 imports are expected to drop to 72.3 million mt in 2019, down 25% from the year-ago total.

In the wider geographical region, imports to the Atlantic and Mediterranean regions could decrease by 24 million mt year on year to 130.2 million mt and down to 125 million mt in 2020, Perret said.

CHINA'S IMPORTS HOLDING UP

In Asia-Pacific, China's thermal coal imports have held up "better than expected, despite much lower growth in coal-fired generation compared with the previous year.

China is expected to import 223.9 million mt in 2019, at a level on par with 2012 and 2014, Perret said. The country imported 217 million mt in 2018, according to Platts Analytics.

"The strength in imports is due to relatively robust demand from heavy industry as well as restocking, as total Chinese inventories plummeted in Q119," Perret said.

Vietnam is expected to increase its coal imports to 38 million mt, more than doubling its total imports from the prior year, Perret said. Platts Analytics, in its October forecast, said it projects Vietnamese coal imports to total 43.1 million mt, up from 23 million mt in 2018.

India-Pacific's thermal coal imports will hit a new record of 860 million mt in 2019, up 21.7 million mt from 2018, Perret said.

"This compares with just 556.4 million mt in 2010," the consultancy said.

-- Jeffrey McDonald, jeffrey.mcdonald@spglobal.com

-- Sarah Matthews, sarah.matthews@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Jeffrey McDonald, newsdesk@spglobal.com