Chinese thermal coal imports jump 30% to record high as Beijing ends domestic price caps

Platts reports Chinese steam coal imports surged to a record during the month of November of 14.45 million, an increase of 30% over the month before, according to China customs data released Friday.

China is the world's number one importer of the commodity and imports for the first 11 months of the year came to 205.5 million tonnes representing a 30% jump compared to last year.

The increase came on the back of a 60% month on month jump in Indonesian exports and a recovery in shipments from South Africa.

The numbers were partly offset by a 63% decline in US exports to only 155,000 tonnes after "a drop in freight rates had favored deliveries from origins much closer to China," according to Platts sources.

The US coal industry has been hoping greater exports would offset its domestic troubles where it is finding it very difficult to compete with natural gas for power generation.

The news came on the same day as an announcement by China's National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) that it will stop regulating the domestic coal market and end a system of annual price caps set far below market value.

Reuters quotes coal traders as saying Beijing's move could "boost imports as domestic prices would no longer be kept artificially low".

Coal exporters have been hard hit this year with prices for benchmark Australian thermal coal falling to around $84 a tonne in December after starting the year at $124 a tonne, a decline of 32%.