Coal producer Arch Coal (NYSE:ACI) issued fourth-quarter 2013 earnings results before the opening bell today, reporting a net loss for the eighth consecutive quarter. A weak coal pricing environment, along with rail service disruptions, helped to produce a loss of $371.1 million, or $1.75 per share. That was a bigger loss than analysts expected.

Included in the loss last quarter was a $265.4 million noncash goodwill impairment charge. When adjusting for that charge, as well as others the company took on the quarter, the adjusted loss is reduced to $95.1 million, or $0.45 per share. That was slightly more than the adjusted loss of $88.7 million, or $0.42 per share, the company reported in the fourth quarter of 2012.

Slumping coal prices resulted in Arch Coal's quarterly revenue plunging 17% from the prior-year period to just $719.4 million. Overall, the average sale price per ton of coal was weak in all four of its operating segments compared to 2012. The company reported a negative operating margin per ton in all segments except its bituminous thermal segment.

Looking ahead, Arch Coal plans to focus on what it can control: costs. Its goal for the year ahead, according to CEO John Eaves in a statement, is to "once again tighten our belts to reduce cash outflow and increase operational efficiencies." A press release said Arch Coal would continue to cut capital spending; the company dropped capital spending by nearly $100 million in 2013, to $297 million, and expects to spend less than $200 million on such projects this year. Eaves noted in the release that there are "signs that a rebound in U.S. thermal coal demand and pricing may be forthcoming," so the company is managing its operations in order to benefit when that rebound occurs. 


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