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China’s coal imports surge again

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China’s imports of coal from the seaborne market surged again in October, thereby justifying the jump in prices but also raising questions as to how much more of the fuel the world’s top buyer can import.

Seaborne coal imports were 20.03 million tonnes for October, according to vessel-tracking and port data compiled by Thomson Reuters Supply Chain and Commodity Forecasts.

This is the highest monthly total since Thomson Reuters began to assess the data in January 2015, and shows that China’s appetite for imports remains undiminished in spite of a spike in the prices of both thermal and coking coal.

The seaborne data doesn’t exactly match Chinese customs data as it excludes imports from North Korea and overland from Mongolia, as well as coal that ships on small vessels or barges. It may also be revised slightly in coming days as more data becomes available on when ships discharged cargoes.

However, seaborne imports are what matters from a market pricing perspective, as freight cargoes from North Korea and Mongolia tend not to affect the regional price benchmarks.