NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ Shares of coal companies sank in late morning trading after one company said it will ship less coal this year than it had previously expected, while another company cut its production forecast. Alpha Natural Resources Inc. cut its forecast because of an unexpected drop in demand from Asia and production shortfalls at some U.S. mines. The Abingdon, Va., coal miner said shipments to Asia of metallurgical coal, which is used in steelmaking, are falling due to a slowdown in construction activity there. Asian demand has been growing at a rapid clip and is a major driver of growth for U.S. coal producers. The company now expects to ship between 102.5 million and 109.5 million tons this year, down from a previous estimate of between 104 million and 112 million tons. Meanwhile, Walter Energy Inc. said it expected to sell about 5.2 million metric tons of coal in the second half of the year, down from a previous forecast of 5.9 million metric tons. The Birmingham, Ala., miner said production had slowed at mines in Alabama and British Columbia. Shares of Alpha Natural Resources dropped $1.92, or 7.1 percent, to $25, earlier hitting a 52-week low of $23.90. Walter lost $8.99, or 12 percent, to $66.01. It also set a 52-week low of $63.88 earlier in the day. Elsewhere in the industry, Peabody Energy Corp. dropped $1.89, or 4.4 percent, to $41.01; Consol Energy Inc. shares gave up 76 cents, or 1.9 percent, to $39.61; Arch Coal Inc. slid $1.37, or 7.6 percent, to $16.65; and Patriot Coal Corp. fell 99 cents, or 8.7 percent, to $10.42.
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