Commodities & Metals

Another Panic Sell Downgrade in Coal

Coal used to be the equivalent of gold for utilities. So what if some power plants and mills still use coal. It is nasty and it is the scourge of the green movement for clean energy and renewable energy. To many people, it does not even matter that coal can be used much cleaner these days. So, guess what happens when you see another wholesale downgrade of the coal sector from yet another Wall Street brokerage firm’s research department?

UBS downgraded the coal stocks on Wednesday, mirroring downgrades elsewhere. The move is also on the heels of the James River Coal Co. (NASDAQ: JRCC) bankruptcy filing this week. James River shares are down to $0.29, more than 90% lower than its 52-week high. James River now has only a $10 million market value, and delisting may be the least of its concerns.

So, the UBS downgrades were as follows:

Alpha Natural Resources Inc. (NYSE: ANR) was downgraded to Sell from Neutral and the price target was cut to $3 from $5. In mid-afternoon trading, Alpha Natural shares were down more than 8% at $4.48, against a 52-week range of $4.12 to $8.40. Its market cap is down to $990 million.

Arch Coal Inc. (NYSE: ACI) was downgraded to Sell from Neutral. What stands out here is that we gave a signal earlier this year in our own report that Arch Coal could be the one standout stock — potentially one of nine stocks that could double in 2014. Despite the carnage, this share price drop of almost 5% to $4.93 is still considerably higher than when we said it could double. Its status is one that is still active on that list. Arch Coal has traded in a range of $3.47 to $5.82 over the past 52-weeks.

Walter Energy Inc. (NYSE: WLT) was downgraded to Sell from Neutral and the price target was cut to $5 from $8 by UBS. Walter has been hit by other calls of late as well. The downgrade put shares down more than 6% to $7.84 in mid-afternoon trading. Its 52-week range is $7.07 to $26.00.

With the trend moving to cleaner energy, the overall bias on coal remains in the toilet. Much of the fear is easily justified, but many oil companies have still included coal in their 20-year and longer outlooks on what energy sources would be used.

CONSOL Energy Inc. (NYSE: CNX) is not participating in the nasty day for coal. In fact, Macquarie raised its rating to Outperform from Neutral. CONSOL shares were up 1.3% at $41.53 in mid-afternoon trading on Wednesday, against a 52-week range of $26.25 to $41.75 (that high was hit on Wednesday).

Maybe all the coal companies can or will go bust. Or maybe not.