Over the last year coal has been performing well as economies around the world continue to expand and demand for global energy continues to rise. As for the future of the commodity, both microeconomic and macroeconomic factors suggest that the commodity will likely continue to remain hot.
In the coming year, China is expected to be a net importer of coal. This phenomenon in the Asian nation is two-fold. From a demand perspective, China continues to grow and therefore demands more coal, to generate electricity and fuel its power plants. From a supply perspective, China has been known to be the largest coal producer in the world, however, the nation in the middle of a major consolidation of its coal industry which is restricting supply. Additionally, unseasonably cold weather has increased the energy demand for home heating. Therefore, demand for coal in China will likely far outweigh supply.
As India continues to grow, infrastructure is expected to play a pivotal role in both government spending as well as GDP growth. This growth emphasis in conjunction with the government’s plans to add additional power generating facilities is likely to spur demand for coal. Granted, India has a domestic supply of coal, but the quality of this coal is poor and results in major logistical problems. As a result, India is likely to be a huge importer of global seaborne thermal coal.
As the United States emerges out of the recession and manufacturing starts to churn, steel mills have started firing up. In fact, steel utilization rates are up about 20% from their lows and are expected to continue to rise, further increasing demand for the charcoal commodity. Although supply and demand are not likely to be much of an issue in the U.S., the Asia-Pacific is likely to absorb much of the demand destruction in the U.S.
Much like the weather conditions that are being seen in China, exceptionally cold weather in the Northeast is driving demand for home heating.
At the end of the day, coal is still one of the cheapest and most effective ways to generate energy and will continue to be the main source of global energy and there just enough of it to go around. Some ways to take advantage of these factors include:
- The Market Vectors Coal ETF (KOL), which includes 41 holdings of companies engaged in the coal industry. Some top holdings include Joy Global (JOYG), Consol Energy (CNX) and Peabody Energy (BTU).
- PowerShares Global Coal ETF (PKOL), which tracks an index that is market-weighted and includes companies around the world that are involved in the exploration and mining of coal. Some top holdings include Cameco Corp (CCJ) Coal & Allied Industries Ltd and Alpha Natural Resources (ANR).
Disclosure: No Positions