Coal prices show signs of weakening

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- Global demand for coal has shown some signs of slack.

That's leaving investors to wonder what's next for U.S. producers who've seen prices at times triple over the past year.

Ocean freight rates, the U.S. dollar and other factors behind the big jump have begun to ease.

Shares in one of the biggest coal producers, Massey Energy Co., tumbled more than 9 percent, or $5.15, to $50.62 in midday trading on news that 2008 prices and production are showing signs of weakness.

St. Louis-based coal giant Peabody Energy offered a more bullish assessment during a presentation at a Lehman Brothers investor conference Thursday. Peabody, the world's largest privately held coal producer, said world coal demand continues to exceed supply and prices remain strong and rising.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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