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Consol Energy raises 2014 coal production outlook

April 7 (Reuters) - Consol Energy Inc raised its coal production outlook for the year, on strong demand from power companies.

Increased demand for power after a severe winter in the United States, a dip in inventory levels at utilities and a ramp up in natural gas prices are boosting demand for thermal coal.

U.S. coal miners Alpha Natural Resources Inc and Arch Coal Inc flagged an expected recovery in thermal coal markets earlier this year.

Consol raised its annual coal production outlook to 31-33 million tons, from 30.1-32.1 million tons.

However, the company warned that demand for metallurgical coal, used in steel production, remained weak, especially in Asia.

"Consol may soon have to exert some additional production discipline at its Buchanan Mine," the company said in a statement, referring to its mine in southern Virginia.

The company, which also drills for natural gas, backed its annual gas production outlook of 215-235 billion cubic feet equivalent, after estimating a 23 percent rise in its first-quarter output.

Consol Energy shares closed at $39.74 on the New York Stock Exchange on Monday.

(Reporting by Swetha Gopinath in Bangalore; Editing by Simon Jennings)