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Steel First’s premium hard coking coal index for material sold on a cfr Jingtang basis was calculated at $133.78 per tonne on Friday, unchanged from levels seen on Thursday.

The premium hard coking coal index fob Australia’s DBCT port was $121.34, down by $1.90 from Thursday.

The cfr hard coking coal index stood at $122.00 per tonne, unchanged from the previous day. The fob value was $110.52 per tonne, down by $1.92 from Thursday.

“It only took several months for coking coal prices to drop from $150 per tonne to the current $130 per tonne level. Losses are increasing as we book more cargoes,” a trader in Shandong said.

“We are very cautious about new bookings now, because prices could fall by $5-10 per tonne during the time you wait for your cargo to arrive,” she added.

There were few offers or bids heard in the extremely slack market, as a result of thin buying interest, several market participants said.

“Bids must have dropped further in the past few days, because there were few enquiries,” a trader in Hebei province said.

“Steel mills are operating at curbed utility rates due to stricter environmental controls and poor downstream demand, and this could continue for a while,” a trader in Dalian city said. He did not expect coking coal prices to experience a rebound in the near term.

The plummeting coking coal futures added to the bearish sentiment.

The most-traded May coking coal futures contract on the Dalian Commodity Exchange dropped by a daily limit of 4% to close at 840 yuan ($137) per tonne on Friday, compared with 874 yuan ($143) per tonne on the previous trading day.

The most-traded May coke contract on the same exchange closed at 1,182 yuan ($193) per tonne, compared with 1,224 yuan ($200) per tonne on Thursday. It also dropped by a daily limit of 4%.

The daily price limit determines the maximum permitted price fluctuation for each contract traded on the exchange. It is set at 4% for metallurgical coal.

The yuan prices are the equivalent of cfr prices plus 17% VAT and port charges of about 35 yuan ($6).