SHANGHAI, April 22 China's coal imports rose
13.3 percent in March from the month before, customs data showed
on Monday, rebounding from two consecutive months of decline as
cheaper overseas prices encouraged end-users to step up orders.
China is the world's biggest coal consumer and importer.
March imports, excluding lignite, were 20.52 million tonnes,
compared with 18.12 million in February. Still, shipments are
down nearly nearly a third from a record 29 million tonnes in
Total imports in the first quarter rose 27.3 percent from a
year ago to 63.8 million tonnes, as a regional supply glut made
imported coal cheaper and encouraged utilities to turn to
Indonesia reclaimed the spot as China's top supplier,
selling 6.0 million tonnes in March, a year-on-year rise of
nearly 19 percent and up from 5.14 million tonnes in February.
The surge in Indonesian supplies was led by China's
increased appetite for low-sulphur sub-bituminous coal, often
used for blending purposes, traders said.
Imports from Australia were up 55.7 percent from year ago at
5.65 million tonnes in March.
Despite the rebound in March arrivals, Chinese demand for
thermal coal imports has stalled in recent weeks and shipments
are set to fall this quarter, producers and traders say,
removing the main prop of the Asian market and threatening to
cut already weak benchmark Australian coal prices.
A sustained fall in domestic coal prices means that the
landed price of imports last week became more expensive than
local supplies, reversing a discount of 10-20 yuan a tonne that
had lasted for most of February-March, traders said.
Imports of coking coal, used in steelmaking, were up 11.9
percent year-on-year in March at 4.64 million tonnes, bringing
total imports in the first quarter to 17.2 million tonnes.
Chinese coal prices for immediate delivery slipped 1 yuan
to 615 yuan ($99.46) a tonne last week, according to the
benchmark Bohai-Bay Rim index. Coal at the Australian port of
Newcastle, a benchmark grade for Asia, stood at
$86.64 a tonne on Friday.
(Reporting by Fayen Wong; Editing by Joseph Radford)