November 23, 2009 / 9:37 PM / 10 years ago

UPDATE 1-U.S. coal companies' shares drop on China import data

* China coal imports drop 11 pct in Oct v Sept

* Coal miners still see Pacific export boom

* U.S. coal company stocks close down (Updates stocks down, adds Peabody comments on China)

NEW YORK, Nov 23 (Reuters) - U.S. coal mining shares fell on Monday after data showed China’s coal imports dropped 11 percent in the last month, even though exporters expect a booming market in the Pacific region for the next few years.

“The China data were a little down and we always get a knee-jerk reaction when they come out,” said Jeremy Sussman, an analyst with Brean Murray Carret & Co.

But even so, he said, the import numbers were “fantastic” relative to historical figures and “as long as the numbers look good, we consider this (share drop) is an over-reaction.”

Indeed, the latest official Chinese customs data showed coal imports rose 219.5 percent from a year earlier to 11.14 million tonnes in October.

But the October volume was 11.2 percent lower than in September, Reuters calculation showed. China’s coal imports hit a record high of 16.07 million tonnes in June.

Many U.S. producers have recently considered boosting coal exports as China, the world’s largest coal producer and consumer, has become a net coal importer this year.

Just this month, Peabody Energy (BTU.N) Chief Executive Greg Boyce said he expects seaborne coal trade in the Pacific region to grow by more than 7 percent annually for several years, underpinned by robust demand from China and India.

Contract prices of thermal and steel-making coking coal next year are also expected to see healthy increases, supported by a recovery in demand as economies regain strength after the global financial crisis, Boyce told reporters in Australia.

After demand for thermal and coking, or metallurgical coal, slumped in traditional importers such as Japan and Korea earlier this year, China began importing huge volumes of coal due to the shutdown of many unsafe mines in the country.

“China is going to continue to be the largest importer of metallurgical coal and, we think, thermal coal,” Boyce said.

“Go back five years and they were an 80 million (-tonne) plus a year net exporter, so it has been a significant shift that we think is structural.”

On the New York Stock Exchange, Alpha Natural Resources ANR.N closed the day’s trading down $1.20, or 2.99 percent, at $38.90, Arch Coal ACI.N finished 1.8 percent lower at $21.86, Patriot Coal PCX.N lost 1.86 percent to close at $13.20 and Consol Energy (CNX.N) fell 1.5 percent to $45.29. Massey Energy MEE.N slipped 16 cents to $37.83 and Peabody Energy was off 14 cents at $45.25.

Reporting by Steve James; Editing by Leslie Gevirtz and Richard Chang steve.james@thomsonreuters.com; +1 646-223-6013; Reuters Messaging: steve.james.reuters.com@reuters.net

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