Oil report

U.S. coal company stocks up on higher contract price

NEW YORK, May 5 (Reuters) - Shares of U.S. coal companies soared on Monday after one producer, Alpha Natural Resources ANR.N, said it was selling some coal next year at $79 per ton -- the highest price seen yet for contract purchases.

“It’s moving the whole space up,” said analyst Jeremy Sussman of Natixis Bleichroeder. “Spot prices have been higher, but that’s the highest we’ve seen of any significant volume.”

Earlier on Monday, Alpha reported a surge in first-quarter earnings. It cited rising exports for metallurgical, or coking coal, which is used in steelmaking and higher prices for thermal, or steam coal, used in power generation.

Alpha said it had reached commitments on approximately 5 million tons of planned thermal production for 2009, at an average realization of approximately $79 per ton.

Appalachian steam coal prices have risen approximately 75 percent this year, according to the industry newsletter, Coal & Energy Price Report. A ton of eastern U.S. coal that sold for $55.48 on the spot market on Jan. 2, was selling on Monday for $97.63.

In morning trading on the New York Stock Exchange, Alpha shares were $4.25, or 8.4 percent, higher at $54.78. Massey Energy MEE.N was 7.3 percent higher at $56.69, Arch Coal ACI.N was up 4.6 percent at $62.00. Consol Energy CNX.N was up 4.5 percent at $88.10 and Peabody Energy BTU.N rose 2.3 percent to $63.88.

Also, Walter Industries WLT.N stock rose $6.65, or 9.12 percent, to $79.60, after increasing its met coal production estimates. (Reporting by Steve James, editing by Dave Zimmerman)