Dec 12 () - Link to Fitch Ratings' Report: 2013 Outlook: U.S. Coal ProducersDec 12 - In its coal outlook published today, '2013 Outlook: U.S. Coal Producers', Fitch highlights trends in the coal industry, such as high coal and natural gas inventories, economic weakness in Europe, and cost inflation, which it believes will severely limit recovery in the industry before 2014. Domestic steam coal burn is in decline due to intensified natural gas competition and flat export demand. Increases in mining costs, coupled with deteriorating geological conditions and increasing regulations continue to hinder productivity. Despite rationalization in the industry, Fitch does not expect relief from cost headwinds over the next 18 - 24 months. Recent debt-financed consolidation in the industry has strained balance sheets. Most producers have gained covenant relief under credit facilities to ensure liquidity on expectations of sharply lower earnings. The full report, titled '2013 Outlook: U.S. Coal Producers', is available on the Fitch web site 'www.fitchratings.com'. Additional information is available at 'www.fitchratings.com'.