Commodities & Metals

Coal Mining Stocks Downgraded; James River Hit Hardest

coal train
Source: Thinkstock
Coal mining companies have had a miserable two years. Low-cost natural gas has clobbered demand for thermal coal to generate electricity, and the slow global economy has substantially slowed demand for metallurgical coal used in making steel. To add insult to injury, brokerage firm Raymond James today lowered its ratings on five coal mining stocks.

James River Coal Co. (NASDAQ: JRCC), Walter Energy Inc. (NYSE: WLT), Arch Coal Inc. (NYSE: ACI), Alpha Natural Resources Inc. (NYSE: ANR), and Peabody Energy Corp. (NYSE: BTU) took a downgrade today on concerns that prices show no signs of improving. Peabody’s rating was lowered to ‘market perform’ while the others were downgraded to ‘underperform’.

The coal miners are caught in a real dilemma. Low coal prices need to fall even further to force the miners to cut production even more. That is especially hard on met coal producers like Walter Energy and James River. Prices for met coal haven’t yet reached a bottom, which means that prices will remain low for a longer time than many observers believed. For coal companies laden with debt, this means refinancings and all the added costs associated with that.

James River is down more than 11% at $2.54 in a 52-week range of $1.46 to $5.89.

Walter Energy is down 4.7% at $15.58 after posting a new 52-week low of $15.37 earlier today.

Arch Coal is down 3% at $4.95 in a 52-week range of $4.47 to $8.86.

Alpha is down 3.8% at $6.41 in a 52-week range of $5.28 to $10.74.

Peabody is down 1.1% at $18.71 in a 52-week range of $18.22 to $29.84.