[Ferro-Alloys.com] Moody's Investors Service said last Friday it retained a negative outlook on US thermal coal markets in 2020 based on stiffer competition in the generation stack from natural gas and renewables, in addition to low export expectations given the US' role as a swing producer.
Moody's estimates US thermal coal demand could fall to 11% of the total power mix by 2030, compared with the mid-20% range it currently takes as gas and renewables take a larger share.
The significant number of coal-fired power plant retirements in 2018 and 2019 have resulted in meaningfully lower domestic demand for thermal coal as well, and the lack of capital or investment in the coal industry has become an emerging concern for coal miners.
Regulatory relief, Moody's added, has had a relatively modest effect as plants continue to retire.
The falling export prices for thermal and metallurgical coal drove the outlook to negative earlier this year.
"Export opportunities help, but thermal and metallurgical export prices are down, which will hurt earnings and cash flow in 2020," Moody's said.
Trade tensions, as well, "contribute to economic uncertainty and weaker demand for steel, which hurts coal producers," Moody's added.(S&P Global Platts)
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