Cash provided by continuing operations was $157 million in the third quarter, compared to cash provided by continuing operations of $96 million a year ago. The increase in cash provided by continuing operations during the third quarter was due to higher earnings, a reduction in the inventory build year over year and collections of accounts receivable offset by a reduction in advance payments resulting from a decline in new original equipment order activity.
Capital expenditures were $55 million in the third quarter of fiscal 2012, compared to $22 million in the prior year third quarter, due to continued investments in manufacturing capacity in emerging markets and aftermarket service infrastructure. Capital expenditures for fiscal 2012 are expected to be approximately $220 million which includes capital expenditures from our acquired LeTourneau and IMM businesses.
The demand for commodities has slowed, adjusting to weaker global economic growth. Recent economic data is mixed, but is generally consistent with low U.S. growth, Europe contracting and China decelerating. With demand slowing, recent capacity additions have created supply surpluses and depressed pricing for most commodities. Customers are responding by cutting capital expenditures, reducing overhead and trimming production. Production cuts have been greatest in U.S. coal, but the closure or reduction of higher cost coal mines is also in process in Australia and Russia.As noted, U.S. coal has experienced the most severe decline, driven primarily by lower electricity demand and electricity generators switching to natural gas. Electricity demand in the U.S. was down over 5 percent during the winter heating season, which is greater than the 4 percent decline in 2009 that resulted from the global recession. On top of slowing demand, shale gas production has been expanding rapidly and creating a significant surplus of natural gas in the U.S. This has depressed natural gas prices to 10-year lows and also has increased the dispatch of gas fired generation onto the electricity grid. As a result, coal’s share of electricity generation has dropped from 43 percent to 32 percent between 2006 and April of 2012 while the natural gas share increased from 18 percent to 32 percent over the same period. Coal production in the second calendar quarter was down by 104 million tons from the first calendar quarter on an annualized basis. It is estimated that cuts of 100 to 120 million tons are needed to balance the U.S. market. However, those reductions can be reduced if power generation is switched from natural gas back to coal.