UPDATE 1-Coal miner Massey's stock soars on sale report

* Shares reach highest level since May

* Company declines to comment on report

NEW YORK, Oct 19 (Reuters) - Shares in Massey Energy Co MEE.N rose as much as 9.7 percent on Tuesday after a report that the coal mining company's directors are exploring strategic alternatives, including a possible sale.

In early trading on the New York Stock Exchange, Massey stock traded as high as $39.00, its highest level since May, before paring gains to trade at $37.97, up 6.7 percent.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Massey’s board formed a committee last week to evaluate the company’s future.

The company said it would not comment specifically on the report.

“Our board of directors and management team are always focused on opportunities to create shareholder value,” the company said in a brief statement.

In April, 29 miners died in a blast at Massey’s Upper Big Branch coal mine in West Virginia, the worst U.S. coal mining accident in 40 years.

“If it is true that the board is driving the strategic review, we believe that is not something the market would have expected out of the company,” said analyst Jeremy Sussman, of Brean Murray Carret & Co. “Most investors we speak with believe that Massey is not for sale under any circumstances.”

Sussman noted since the Upper Big Branch accident, Massey has underperformed its two closest peers by roughly 25 percent.

“We have to think that Massey’s assets would be viewed attractively by potential domestic and international buyers,” Sussman wrote in a research note. (Reporting by Steve James and Matt Daily, editing by Gerald E. McCormick)