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China's Coal Prices Set to Soar, Industry Experts Predict

China's coal market is poised for a significant uptick in prices, according to fresh insights from the China Coal Transportation and Distribution Association (CCTD). General Manager Han Lei of CCTD's research department highlighted that domestic thermal coal prices have surpassed 800 yuan ($110.41) per metric ton, which is seen by many in the industry as marking the bottom for the year.

Current coal market dynamics suggest a trend of stabilization and resurgence in prices. Despite expectations for relatively flat coal output this year compared to a modest growth of 2.9% in the previous year, the lower output forecasts are expected to bolster near-term prices.

Furthermore, recent economic stimulus initiatives by the Chinese government are anticipated to inject momentum into coal demand, potentially offsetting the negative impact of a slowdown in sectors like cement production. Notably, the cement industry has witnessed a decline in capacity utilization, from 80% to 50% over the past year, attributing the slump in coal demand partly to the prolonged downturn in real estate.

However, amidst these challenges, there are silver linings for the Chinese coal market. While demand from sectors like cement may have dipped, stability in coal consumption persists within the power sector. Additionally, signs of recovery are visible in sectors such as chemicals, indicating a modest uptick in coal consumption.

Nevertheless, disruptions in freight routes, particularly in the Red Sea, have inflated import costs, rendering imports from countries like Indonesia and Australia more expensive. Despite China's status as the largest global consumer of coal, imports are expected to remain stagnant or even decline in 2024, despite the overall uptick in demand.

By Julianne Geiger for Oilprice.com

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