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Arch Coal 4Q results miss analysts' estimates

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Arch Coal Inc. reported a wider-than-expected fourth-quarter loss on Tuesday as it dealt with a large impairment charge.

The coal producer's performance missed analysts' estimates. Its shares dropped more than 7 percent in morning trading, even as the company said it sees signs of a possible coal rebound in the second half of the year.

A soft global economy has cut into demand for coal, but so has cheap natural gas for heating homes and generating electricity.

For the period ended Dec. 31, Arch Coal lost $295.4 million, or $1.39 per share. That compares with a profit of $70.9 million, or 33 cents per share, a year ago.

The current quarter included a $231 million impairment charge, mostly related to a drop in benchmark metallurgical coal prices.

Excluding one-time items, Arch lost 42 cents per share in the quarter. Revenue fell to $968.2 million from $1.23 billion.

Analysts expected a loss of 17 cents per share on $999.2 million in revenue, according to FactSet.

Arch sold 36.1 million tons of coal in the quarter, down from 37.5 million tons sold in the third quarter. The average sales price per ton fell to $24.21 from $25.57.

The St. Louis company posted a full-year loss of $684 million, or $3.24 per share. In 2011 it earned $141.7 million or 74 cents per share.

Annual revenue dropped 3 percent to $4.16 billion.

Arch thinks 2013 will be a better year for coal, as output rises at coal-fueled power plants in the U.S. and manufacturing picks up in China. It also thinks Europe's economy will stabilize somewhat, and demand for metallurgical coal used in steelmaking will improve.

Arch Coal shares fell 52 cents, or 7.5 percent, to $6.26 in morning trading. Over the past year the stock has traded between $5.16 and $15.70.