Launceston — Coal prices in Asia are being driven to multi-year highs by a rare combination of simultaneous demand growth in the region’s top four importers. Depending on the price used, thermal coal is either close to a two-year high or near the strongest in six years as China, India, Japan and South Korea imported more of the polluting fuel in the first five months of this year compared to the same period in 2017. The Australian thermal coal benchmark, the weekly Newcastle Index, ended last week at $108.89 a tonne, not far from the $110.60 hit in late February, which was the highest price since March 2012. The daily spot price for Newcastle cargoes hit $114.50 a tonne on Monday, the highest since reaching $114.75 in November 2016, which in turn was the best since March 2012. Lower grade thermal coal from Indonesia has also been performing strongly, with 4,200 kilocalorie per kilogram coal assessed by Argus Media ending last week at $46.82 a tonne, up 14% since the year low in mid-...

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