BAMBOLIM, Goa, India (Reuters) - China’s domestic thermal coal market faces a 2-3 month short squeeze as a rapidly spreading coronavirus outbreak curtails production more than demand, Noble Resources’ chief coal analyst said on Tuesday.
The new virus, which originated in China, has claimed over 1,800 lives in the country, and caused widespread disruption to domestic manufacturing and global supply chains.
“Supply has been hampered in the short-term even more than demand. This has created a short-squeeze in the market, which is likely to last 2-3 months,” Rodrigo Echeverri, Noble’s head of hard commodities research, said in a presentation at the Coaltrans India conference.
He expected Chinese demand for thermal coal - mainly used for electricity generation - to fall by about 180 million tonnes due to the disease, outpaced by a loss of about 200 million tonnes of production.
China city air quality indices, which increase when industrial production picks up, and migration data show that very few workers have returned to work after an extended Lunar New Year holiday, Echeverri said.
“China is not producing right now,” he said, adding that lower box office sales and real estate transactions also pointed to a lack of consumption in China.
Elsewhere, coal production in Indonesia, the world’s largest thermal coal exporter, is expected to increase along with local demand, leaving little room for higher exports, Echeverri said.
Global demand for seaborne thermal coal is expected to fall marginally in 2020 due to a further decline in demand from Europe and the Americas, and the market is expected to be adequately supplied this year, he said.
“Going into 2020, we see that market has started to rebalance itself,” Echeverri said.
Supply in 2020 is expected to outstrip demand by 0.8%, compared with tighter market conditions in the previous two years.