Arch Coal

(ACI) - Get Report

said Wednesday it expects to beat Wall Street's first-quarter estimates by a wide margin thanks to profits on coal sold in the spot market and income tax benefits related to depletion.

For its first-quarter ending March 31, Arch Coal said it expects to earn 10 cents to 15 cents a share, up substantially from its reported loss of 39 cents in the year-ago period. Four analysts surveyed by

Thomson Financial/First Call

were expecting the company to earn 4 cents a share.

"We have realized exceptionally strong profit margins on the small volume of coal that was open to market-based pricing," Arch Coal said. "In addition, nearly all of our mines are operating at high levels of productivity and the overall market continues to strengthen.''

Shares of Arch Coal, which produces bituminous coal for the domestic steam market, reached a 52-week high Tuesday at $28.05 on the

New York Stock Exchange

. They were up $1.95, or 7%, to $29.85 in recent trading on Wednesday.