In a historic move showing just how profound the collapse in global commodity demand and trade is, earlier today the Sydney Morning Herald reported that Australia’s biggest coal exporter Glencore (GLCNF), which last year concluded its merger with miner Xstrata (XSRAF) creating the world’s fourth largest mining company and world’s biggest commodity trader, will suspend its Australian coal business for three weeks “in a move never before seen in the Australian market, to avoid pumping tonnes into a heavily oversupplied market at depressed prices.” Putting this shocking move in context, it is something that was avoided even during the depths of the global depression in the aftermath of Lehman’s collapse, and takes place at a time when the punditry will have you believe that the US will decouple from the rest of the world and grow at 3% in the current quarter and in 2015.

This is a considered management decision given the current oversupply situation and reduces the need to push incremental sales into an already weak pricing environment,” the company said.

Glencore chief Ivan Glasenberg

For those who don’t recall some of the more paradoxical moves in the Australian commodity space in recent months, Glencore is not only the dominant coal exporter in the global coal market, but one which has continued to raise its thermal coal output in Australia and push its coal business towards a new production record this year, even as prices for the commodity crashed to five-year lows. Thermal coal is selling for about $65 a, about half of the $120 price from three years ago.

Said otherwise, Glencore took the first and only page out of Amazon’s playbook and has been pumping excess production in hopes of crushing marginal prices to the point where its competition goes out of business.

Unfortunately, things are not working out as expected and earlier today Glencore surprised the market by saying it would shut its Australian coal business for three weeks, starting mid-December, shaving about 5 million tonnes of output.

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