RICHMOND, Va. (AP) ¿ Coal mining company James River Coal Co. said Friday that its fourth-quarter loss narrowed, but the company said its results were hurt by lower rates of production at its mines.

The company also put out 2010 guidance that came up short of analyst expectations.

James River Coal said it lost $3.2 million, or 12 cents per share, compared to a loss of $33.6 million, or $1.26 per share, in the year-earlier quarter.

The company sold $149.5 million worth of coal during the quarter, up from $140.8 million in the 2008 fourth quarter. But company executives said that they were forced to reduce production because of soft coal markets.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters expected earnings of 44 cents per share on sales of $175.4 million.

For 2010, the company projects earnings of $1.70 to $2.25. That is below the analyst consensus view of $2.93 per share.

James River Coal earned $51 million, or $1.85 per share, for all of 2009.

Shares of the company fell $1.09, or 6.4 percent, to close at $15.91.

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