China coal prices dive as govt plans intervention to ease power crunch

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China’s thermal coal futures sank about 13% on Friday, extending their losses since Tuesday when Beijing said it would intervene to cool surging prices of the commodity to help electricity producers out of a widespread power crunch.

The most-active thermal coal futures on Zhengzhou Commodity Exchange , for delivery in January, tumbled to 1,384 yuan per tonne by 1130 Beijing time (0329 GMT) – down more than 30% since Tuesday’s all-time peak of 1,982 yuan per tonne.

Coking coal was down 9.91% and coke futures fell 7.42% on the Dalian Commodity Exchange in morning trade, having fallen by the maximum 12% in day-time trade on Thursday.

A widening power crisis in China caused by shortages of coal led to record high fuel prices amid booming post-pandemic industrial demand as the country shifts to greener fuels.

China has halted production at factories which has dragged on factory gate inflation. read more

China is pushing miners to ramp up coal production and increasing imports so that power stations can rebuild stockpiles before the winter heating season, but analysts say shortages are likely to persist for at least another few months. read more

“We’re now seeing the fruits of China’s supply response, as the government has given miners carte blanche to produce at full tilt – even permitting the relaxation of safety inspections in some cases,” said Atilla Widnell, managing director at Navigate Commodities in Singapore.

“The parabolic pricing action largely represented the fear of buyers being unable to source sufficient volumes to feed power plants and coke ovens,” Widnell said.

“Therefore, we can expect prices to fall almost as fast as they’ve risen now that a wave of supply is inbound,” he added.

MEASURES TO TAME RUNAWAY PRICES

China’s state planner, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), said this week that it was studying ways to lower coal prices and would take all necessary steps to bring them into a reasonable range. read more

The NDRC said on Friday it would send teams of inspectors to major coal producing regions to probe the costs of coal production and circulation.

It added that it had met with the China Coal Industry Association and key firms, and was looking at steps to prevent coal companies from seeking excessive profits.

China’s securities regulator has said it would ask futures exchanges to raise fees, restrict trading quotas and crack down on speculation in response to high coal prices.

The NDRC “has concluded that the unbridled soaring of coal prices is partly driven by those hoping to hit the jackpot by taking advantage of the power supply falling short of actual need”, Chinese state media outlet China Daily wrote on Thursday.

There should be “zero tolerance to the hoarding of coal”, the newspaper added. “It is of the utmost importance to rein in coal prices as they will pose a threat to people’s daily lives when winter sets in.”

Due to cold winds and rain, temperatures in most parts of central and eastern China are currently lower than normal, the National Meteorological Center said.
SOURCE: REUTERS

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