Coking coal, iron ore prices resume surge

The rise in the price of coking coal shows no signs of running out of steam with the Australian export benchmark price climbing again as Chinese traders return from a weeklong holiday with renewed confidence in the the health of the world's second largest economy.

Metallurgical coal was exchanging hands at $218.10 on Tuesday, up $4.70 since the start of the week according to data provided by Steel Index. Steelmaking coal prices are up nearly three-fold since hitting multi-year lows in November last year.

Coking coal, iron ore prices resume surgeCoal used in power generation has also experienced an unexpected jump this year with seaborne prices for thermal coal up more than two-thirds since the start of the year to exchange hands for just over $84 a tonne on Monday, up 8% since the start of October.

The rally was triggered by Beijing’s decision to limit coal mines' operating days to 276 or fewer a year from 330 before as it seeks to restructure the industry. Safety closures and weather related supply curbs in China and Australia only added fuel to the fire.

Iron ore also enjoyed renewed interest adding nearly 4% this week to trade at $56.50 a tonne on Tuesday.  The price of iron ore is up 32% this year and like coking coal the resurgence comes against expectations of further declines as Chinese steelmaking peak after three decades of growth.

In 2011 floods in key export region in Queensland saw the coking coal price touch  $335 a tonne. The iron ore price peaked in February that same year at $191.50 a tonne. Despite iron ore rally, the iron ore/coking coal ratio is now at its lowest level this century after peaking at 1.2x during 2010.