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Peabody Energy quarterly coal production levels after sharp increase

Peabody Energy Corp. decreased its U.S. coal production slightly in the fourth quarter of 2016 following a surge in production in the prior quarter.

The company reported about 41.4 million tons of coal from 15 of its mines to the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration in the final quarter of 2016. The total is about 1.1% lower than the prior quarter and down about 8.3% from the year-ago fourth-quarter total.

The production volume is roughly in line with Peabody's production from the second quarter of 2015. While production bounced to 46.3 million tons in the quarter after that, it fell until hitting a recent bottom of 31.7 million tons.

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After recent improvements in coal demand and coal pricing however, Peabody turned its production totals around with a 32.2% boost in production. That total still falls short of Peabody's two-year quarterly production high of 49.8 million tons achieved in the fourth quarter of 2014.

Peabody's largest mine, the North Antelope Rochelle mine, held production relatively flat, with a 1.8% decline in production. The mine accounts for more than half of Peabody's total U.S. coal production.

Peabody reported production of about 148.9 million tons of coal from its U.S. mines in 2016. In recent filings associated with its ongoing bankruptcy reorganization, Peabody projected about 149 million tons of coal sales from U.S. operations. While year-to-year 2016 production is roughly at the same level as projected 2017 sales, Peabody’s 2016 production was heavily back-weighted.

In a court filing objecting to investors' claims that the recent price rally for U.S. coal should lead to greater recovery for shareholders, Peabody warned about the sustainability of recently elevated coal prices.

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