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Growing exports bright spot in Illinois Basin coal market: sources

The US' Illinois Basin coal market is bumping along domestically, withnot much to generate excitement other than a long-term forecast for coldweather, as demand remains weak amidst mild temperatures and relatively highutility stockpiles, sources say.

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"We're a little above average [for stocks], just over 90 days," said oneMidwest utility.

A producer said other than exports, there has not been any significantmarket movement in the last five to six months, and that current mild weather"is not going to help anything."

But the producer said the company has not had to defer any deliveries,and a second producer said natural gas prices above $3/MMBtu are supportingIllinois Basin coal.

Illinois Basin coal production has slowed in recent weeks, as US EnergyInformation Administration estimates put fourth-quarter production throughNovember 25 at 15.1 million st, down 13.5% from the year-ago period.

Exports, however, are starting to heat up. Overseas prices remain strong,and Indian buyers are said to be in the market in a major way. Export pricesfor Illinois Basin coal are reportedly being heard at $56/mt-$57/mt FOB NewOrleans, said a source.

India is also sourcing a lot of Northern Appalachian coal, which couldcreate a domestic hole that Illinois Basin producers can fill, said the secondproducer.

"There are good things to come," said the second producer.

S&P Global Platts assessed Illinois Basin 11,500 Btu/lb, 5 lb SO2/MMBtu,low chlorine FOB barge coal for first quarter of 2018 delivery at $38/st, up50 cents week on week, based on a survey of market participants.

--Andrew Moore,

--Edited by Keiron Greenhalgh,