Chinese imports, a barometer for assessing iron ore, fell by 30% in February of this year, to 61.2 million tons. The first two months of 2014 were better than the same time period a year ago, but February numbers are at the lowest level since March of 2013. Following suit, iron ore prices have also fallen from $135 per ton at the beginning of the year to its current level of approximately $105 per ton. The falling price of iron ore has reignited the Chinese appetite for importing iron ore, and stockpiles at Chinese ports are climbing again reaching 99mt, versus an all-time high of 101mt in 2012.
The US coal industry looks to be performing very well at the moment, but industry experts do not expect the numbers to hold up. For three consecutive years, the US has exported more than 100 million tons of coal, reaching a level of approximately 118 million tons in 2013. But, the US may have reached its peak, as 2015 projections show only 99 million tons to be exported due to a weakening economy in Europe, slowdown in demand from Asian markets and the availability of coal from other countries which will drive down prices and hence US coal exports.
India’s coal imports in February 2014 were 20% higher than in February 2013, jumping to 11.6 million tons. India, which receives most of its coal shipments from Indonesia, is using coal primarily to fire its power plants. A combination of lower prices and a stronger rupee has contributed to India’s increasing imports.