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Coal Exports Help U.S. Navigate Lower Demand, Raymond James Says

A record pace of coal exports is helping U.S. producers bear the brunt of lower demand caused by cheap natural gas and regulatory pressure, Raymond James & Associates said.

Coal exports in April touched a record 12.5 million tons and are on pace for 150 million this year, Raymond James said. That would be about 40 percent higher than the 107 million exported in 2011, the most since 1991, according to Energy Department data.

Natural gas has fallen 25 percent this year to $2.256 per million British thermal units as of 10:21 a.m. today on the New York Mercantile Exchange, making the fuel more attractive for utilities to use it over coal to generate electricity. At the same time, Environmental Protection Agency regulations have made burning coal more challenging.

“Over the long haul, we suspect access to what should be a growing global seaborne coal trade will undoubtedly be beneficial to helping to offset some of the weakness in domestic demand caused by weak natural gas and/or regulatory challenges,” James Rollyson and David Feaster Jr., analysts at Raymond James in Houston, wrote in the report.

Coal on the New York Mercantile Exchange fell 8 cents to $54.15 a ton on June 8, the lowest price since March 15, 2010. Prices have tumbled 22 percent this year.

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