Interesting that this week one gets the sense the mood has turned a little for coal. With a number of positive articles coming from major sources like Barron's ("Gold, Coal Picks Set to Rebound").
That's no surprise to anyone following the data of late, as we've discussed.
And the bullish news isn't stopping. With yet more positive developments coming from Japan this week.
Specifically, major Japanese utility Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) announcing its year-end figures for fuel burning. Showing a massive jump in coal use during 2013.
Tepco's coal consumption rose 108% for the year, as compared to 2012. Equating to an increase of about 3.35 million tonnes.
That's a signifiant increase. Confirming that coal use in Japan is coming in a lot stronger than many observers predicted.
In fact, coal seems to have become the go-to fuel for Japanese buyers. With the rise in coal consumption in 2013 coming even as demand for other fuels dropped. Tepco's consumption of fuel oil fell 30% in 2013. Crude oil consumption dropped almost 50%.
Even liquefied natural gas isn't seeing the kind of growth coal is enjoying. Tepco's LNG consumption grew just 2% in 2013.
All of which suggests groups like Tepco are replacing supplies of expensive hydrocarbon fuels with cheaper coal shipments. Creating an unexpected source of new coal demand in the Pacific.
The coal consumption numbers out of Japan won't be towering. But the nation's overall coal use might have ramped up by 10 or possibly 20 million tonnes over the past year.
That's not big compared with India's demand growth--which will see a rise of 40 to 50 million tonnes this year. But it's another place where the coal market is getting a little tighter. And with things getting tight almost everywhere these days, it's only a matter of time until coal prices respond.
Here's to the land of the rising smoke,
By. Dave Forest