NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Shares of coal miner Walter Energy (WLT) shot higher Monday morning ahead of the company's fourth-quarter earnings report, expected after the closing bell.

Along with all U.S. coal producers, Walter Energy has seen its stock price rip higher over the last six months as investors jumped into cyclical names amid a boom in raw materials and commodities prices.

Demand for coal out of the U.S. has also intensified because of catastrophic flooding earlier this year in one of the world's most important coal-mining regions: Australia's Queensland state.

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Last week, the U.S. Energy Department predicted that exports of coking or metallurgical coal -- the type used for steelmaking -- would jump 7.3% in 2011. (Queensland is especially known for its coking variety.)

Total U.S. coal exports, the Energy Department said, are expected to increase by 8.8% this year. That would be the highest total since 1996, according to Bloomberg, with coking coal making up more than half the total.

Walter Energy, as it happens, is a coking coal specialist. Based in Tampa, the company mostly takes its coal from underground mines in Alabama. It also produces methane gas, a sort of byproduct of its coal mining.

Analysts on average are expecting Walter to post earnings of $2.01 a share in the fourth quarter, on revenue of about $440 million. That would represent year-over-year growth of 360% on the bottom line and 86% on the top.

On Monday, Walter shares were trading at $125.91, up 6.7%, on volume of 1.3 million shares. Daily turnover in the name has averaged 2.3 million over the last three months. The stock touched its 52-week high of nearly $140 on Jan.12.

Other coal names were in the green Monday. Peabody Energy ( BTU) was rising 2%; Arch Coal ( ACI) was adding 4.5%; Alpha Natural Resources ( ANR), which is in the process of buying Massey Energy ( MEE), was up 2.8%.

-- Written by Scott Eden in New York

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