* Volume of 250,000 T traded in April DES ARA contract
* For May contract volume was 100,000 T
* Compares with typical daily volume up to 50,000 T
LONDON, April 4 (Reuters) - European physical coal prices for prompt delivery traded higher on Thursday as volumes swelled far in excess of the daily average, as three trades totalled 250,000 tonnes transacted in one prompt contract.
Coal of Colombian, Russian and U.S. origin for April delivery into northwest European ports Amsterdam, Antwerp and Rotterdam (DES ARA) was priced at $78.25 on Thursday, up from $77 on Wednesday and a three-year low of $76.50 on Tuesday.
Traders could cite no change in supply or demand fundamentals to account for the price rise or the heavy volume.
"It could be that utility and a bank were swapping some cargoes, maybe to set a price for April coal," said one trader with a major coal producer.
According to brokers GlobalCoal, 250,000 tonnes traded in the April contract, compared with typical daily volumes in a monthly contract of no more than 50,000 tonnes.
In addition, 100,000 tonnes traded for May delivery DES ARA, putting prices at $81.50, up $0.65 from Wednesday.
Traders said three transactions of 75,000 tonnes each in the April DES ARA contract came within 15-20 minutes of each other, suggesting that at least one counterparty was involved in each trade.
The hefty volumes on Thursday contrasted with a dearth of physical trading in the past few months.
Abundant supply has outstripped demand in Europe, where stockpiles of coal are high despite a colder-than-usual weather since the start of the year.
The DES ARA contract for June delivery traded $1 higher at $81.60, narrowing the contango in the market to $3 from $4 on Tuesday.
South African cargoes for April delivery were bid at $80.70, up from Wednesday's settlement of $79.90 per tonne.
A rise in physical coal prices helped API2 year-ahead coal futures to rise by $0.77 to $93.65 a tonne, after it earlier in the day reached $93.80, its highest trade for over a week.
German baseload power for 2014 delivery traded at 41.63 euros a megawatt-hour (MWh), up from a previous close of 41.40. (editing by Jane Baird)