Virginia coal exports rose in 2018, but future uncertain

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NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (AP) — The three coal terminals in Virginia's Hampton Roads region saw double-digit increases in exports last year, but a global economy that shows signs of slowing worries some analysts.

The Virginian-Pilot reports that the biggest coal-exporting port in North America finished 2018 at nearly 43 million tons (39 million metric tons), a 22-percent rise from 2017 and what analysts call a "gravity-defying" 91.1 percent hike from 2016.

However, exports dropped slightly in the fourth quarter, which IHS Markit's Jim Thompson called an "anticlimactic" end to the year. He did caution that the slowdown didn't mean it was a weak quarter.

But a possible economic downturn could lead to a decrease in demand for steel, which would affect the metallurgical coal used to make it. It could also create obstacles for exports of thermal coal.