US met coal is being priced out of the market

Macquarie has slashed its price forecast for metallurgical coal in the second half of the year.

Platts reports the Australian investment bank  now expects hard coking coal contract prices should average roughly $145/mt during the second half of 2013.

That's a more than double digit reduction from Macquarie's earlier predictions, but broadly in line with the prevailing Q3 contract pricing:

"We believe major Australian producers will keep contract prices at current levels until 10 million-15 million mt/year of US swing tonnage exits the market, which given the loss of US competitiveness from currency moves and the degree of current cash burn seems inevitable," it said.

Australian miners are "increasingly seeing their US peers as unwanted guests in their Pacific basin home."

The $145/mt contract price is a sharp deterioration from expectations as little as one month ago which were in the $160 – $165 range and the second quarter benchmark of $172.

During the 2009 global financial crisis hard coking coal hit a low of $129 when annual contracts were still the norm. Quarter contract pricing hit an all-time high of $330 mid-2011.

Benchmark Australian FOB spot met coal spot prices are trading in the $130 – $135 range.

There is better news for US thermal coal producers on the domestic front.

Coal used in electricity generation is expected to rise 8.1% this year according to the  EIA and will make up 40% of the total power generation.

Total coal consumption in the US is expected to rise from 890 million tonnes last year to 950 mt in 2013 and 966 mt next year.