Australia Plays Down Reports of Chinese Coal Ban

Asia shares steady after Fed minutes, Aussie rallies

The Australian dollar was in the spotlight, sliding more than one percent after customs at China's northern Dalian port banned imports of Australian coal and said it will cap overall coal imports for 2019.

Tensions rose again last month after Australia rescinded the visa of a prominent Chinese businessman, just months after barring Chinese telecoms giant Huawei Technologies from supplying equipment to its 5G broadband network.

In afternoon trading, the dollar rose 0.2 percent against the yen to 110.82 yen.

BHP chief executive Andrew Mackenzie said while delays had been experienced in getting both metallurgical coal and thermal coal into China recently, he did not believe it was political.

"Weaker coals make up the majority of Mongolian exports so in the short term direct replacements for Australian coals would be limited", he said. The possibility of adverse impacts on China suggest a long-term ban is unlikely.

Its ambassador to Canada this week warned that excluding the company will have repercussions. Prices would have fallen if there was a ban in place, according to Daniel Hynes, an analyst at Australia & New Zealand Banking Group.

"We do understand that China applies, in some areas, restrictions in relation to the volume of coal", Birmingham told reporters in Adelaide on Friday.

"People should be careful about leaping to conclusions about this", Morrison told journalists in Auckland.

While imports of Indonesian and Russian coal would still be allowed, Australian coal was banned.

However, concerns persist over the lack of liquidity in the spot market and therefore its transparency, though the emergence of trading platforms such as Global Coal in recent years have improved things. "They could do more if they wanted to, but if they did they would shoot themselves in the foot because if they stop buying our raw materials, they will suffer as well".

"This seems to be an escalation of what is already happening between China and Australia".

"If you look at the volume and the value of our coal exports to China and in the last quarter of 2018, it was higher in the same period past year and the coal exports underpin more than 50,000 jobs and $60bn of exports, so they will continue to be strong and robust".

On Friday, China's foreign ministry spokesman said that reports the nation had banned Australian coal imports are false.

"The goals are to better safeguard the legal rights and interests of Chinese importers and to protect the environment", Geng said, adding that the move was "completely normal".

See live rates for the NZ-US $ below.

Ignoring the one per cent tumble in the Aussie dollar last night and a 0.4 per cent fall on Wall Street, the S&P-ASX 200 index rallied from an early dip into the red as the major banks continued to rally after Westpac's forecast yesterday that the Reserve Bank would cut rates twice this year.

"It is not an issue for us at the moment but we need to fix this soon", he said.

Griffin said Mongolian coal imports could rise substantially in order to replace Australian coals.

"It is hard to know the exact Chinese motives in this case", said Zhang Baohui, director of the Centre for Asian Pacific Studies at Lingnan University in Hong Kong.

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