Japanese steelmakers have reached an agreement with BHP Billiton for a 7% reduction in coking coal prices for the three-month period ending December 31, The Nikkei reported. The price for high-quality coking coal was set at $209/metric ton for the October-December period, compared with $225 in the July-September quarter. This represents the first decline since the industry switched to setting prices quarterly in April and reflects a slowdown in Chinese demand. The industry previously set prices yearly. Vale SA of Brazil, the world’s largest iron ore producer, has indicated it plans to cut its October-December prices for Japanese steelmakers by around 10% from the July-September quarter. Coking coal and iron ore prices tend to be influenced by demand in China, which produces about half of the world’s steel. Chinese steelmakers have curbed production to adjust inventories, but the slowdown in output is expected to be temporary. It remains uncertain whether prices for steelmaking materials will continue to slide next year.