Business: How coal is doing better than gold

Amid instability in the oil markets and sharp losses for other commodities such as copper, you may be tempted to think gold is the best option for a positive return. But coal beats the metal.

Coking coal futures on the Singapore Exchange, which mirror The Steel Index price for Australian free-on-board cargoes, ended at $159.98 a tonne on Monday, up 17.7% since the end of last year.

In contrast, spot gold ended at $1,513.91 an ounce on Monday, down 0.2% from end-2019, with the loss extending in Asian trade on Tuesday to around 1.5%.

And it’s not just coking coal. Even thermal coal, used mainly in power plants, is looking fairly solid.

The weekly index price for thermal coal at Australia’s Newcastle port, as assessed by commodity price reporting agency Argus, was $64.87 a tonne in the week ended March 13, virtually unchanged from the $64.85 that prevailed at the end of 2019.

Lower-quality Indonesian coal with an energy value of 4,200 kilocalories a kilogram was at $32.77 a tonne, down 3.1% from the end of last year.

Thermal coal also benefited from the coronavirus as Chinese mines were either idled or working at reduced rates, boosting demand for imports of the fuel.