The Thermal Coal Market in 2014: Slow and Steady Recovery

The Thermal Coal Market in 2014: Slow and Steady RecoveryLast week, Coal Investing News gave an overview of Joe Aldina's take on the metallurgical coal market. This week, we look at the Wood Mackenzie analyst's view of thermal coal.

The stories are similarly gloomy, but as with met coal, Aldina is confident that a recovery is on the horizon for thermal. In his presentation at the 2014 Coal Association of Canada Conference and Trade Show, held in Vancouver from September 10 to 12, the analyst suggested that as with met coal, production costs for thermal coal will not likely be cut further, which will help create a floor for prices.

Furthermore, he anticipates that even with alternative forms of energy taking a bigger share of the market, China is still poised to consume a substantial amount of coal in coming years.

Supply

To be sure, the thermal coal market is oversupplied at the moment. In terms of which countries are causing that issue, Aldina pointed the finger at two countries in particular, stating, "it's Australia and Indonesia."

While Aldina blamed Australia for being the main "bad actor" in terms of oversupply in the met coal market, he said Indonesia is responsible for the glut of thermal coal. To give some perspective on how much of an impact Indonesia is having on thermal coal supply, Aldina referenced Glencore (LSE:GLEN) CEO Ivan Glasenberg, who has said, "if you want to look at the thermal coal markets and see where they're going, just take a look at supply from Indonesia."

Conversely, he stated that the United States has done a fair job of bringing its output down in response to oversupply. He commented that, compared to a 2011 baseline, the US has gone back to what it was exporting in incremental terms for thermal coal.