NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ Shares of coal mining companies got a boost Monday, after one of the world's largest natural gas companies announced plans to drastically cut drilling and production of the fuel in the United States. Chesapeake Energy Corp., the nation's second largest natural gas producer, said it will reduce its current daily production by 8 percent. Over a year, that means the company would produce the same or slightly less natural gas in 2012 than it did in 2011. Chesapeake produces about 9 percent of the nation's natural gas. The move is expected to boost natural gas prices, which have fallen more than 23 percent since the beginning of the year. The low prices and abundant supply have made natural gas a favorite of power-producing utilities. But the more natural gas prices increase, the more likely it would be that utility companies would begin to favor coal again. In afternoon trading, natural gas prices jumped 8.2 percent to $2.59 per 1,000 cubic feet. Expectations of increased demand for coal made Patriot Coal Corp. one of the day's biggest winners. Its shares jumped 60 cents, or 8 percent, to $8.11 in afternoon trading, after peaking at $8.37 earlier in the day. Over the past 52 weeks, the company's shares have traded between $6.92 and $29.20. But since peaking in July, Patriot shares have lost 70 percent of their value. Elsewhere in the sector, Consol Energy Inc. rose $1.14, or 3.5 percent, to $34.16; Alpha Natural Resources Inc. jumped 90 cents, or 4.5 percent, to $20.81; and Arch Coal Inc. added 34 cents, or 2.5 percent, to $14.22.
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