Peabody Energy Corp. (NYSE: BTU) reported fourth quarter and full-year 2012 results yesterday that were objectively awful, but not bad in context. At least that’s what everyone thought yesterday when the company’s shares jumped about 4% on a loss of just over $1 billion.
After a good night’s sleep, investors have bid the stock down about 4.5% today and the drop has taken the other coal miners along for the ride. Alpha Natural Resources Inc. (NYSE: ANR) is down about 2.9% today, Arch Coal Inc. (NYSE: ACI) is down 3.8%, Consol Energy Inc. (NYSE: CNX) about 1%, James River Coal Co. (NASDAQ: JRCC) is down about 4.4%, Walter Energy Inc. (NYSE: WLT) about 1.8%, and Cloud Peak Energy Inc. (NYSE: CLD) is down 2.2%.
Peabody forecast higher costs in Australian operations and lower sales and pricing in the U.S. in the first quarter. The company sold 248.5 million tons of coal last year, near the high end of its 2013 forecast of 230 to 250 million tons. Peabody expects U.S. coal shipments to rise as natural gas costs rise and power plants switch back to coal-fired generation. The problem with that conclusion is that natural gas prices have been falling again.
Consol Energy said earlier this month that it would change the focus of its capital investments to natural gas production and will invest twice as much in gas as it will in coal. That news also dragged down coal stocks. Try as it might, the coal sector is still having trouble finding the silver lining.