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Analyst Sees Royal Returns from King Coal

The global demand for energy has doubled the price of coal in the last year. Can profit still be mined from it?

Stifel, Nicolaus coal analyst Paul Forward sees growth continuing, especially in the overseas markets.

"Keep in mind, overseas, that last year, China added around 96,000 megawatts of coal-fired power plants," he told CNBC. "That's equivalent to about 31 percent of the entire U.S. coal power fleet."

So which coal stocks look the best to him?

"Peabody Energy is probably our top pick," he said. "They're the biggest in the U.S., but they're also the No. 5 coal producer out of Australia -- and it's that Australian coal that we think is going to be the top earnings growth driver at Peabody for the next couple of years."

How about pure coal plays in the United States?

"We like Consol Energy," Forward said. "It's the largest in the Appalachians, and it's probably the best-positioned company to export coal out of the east coast of the U.S."

The number-two coal producer in the Appalachians, Massey Energy

, also makes his list.

"When you think right now about coal exports from the U.S....it's the eastern part of the U.S. that's typically, historically been the largest source of coal exports, and we think Massey benefits a lot from that," he said.

Peabody, Consol and Massey are investment banking clients of Forward's firm.

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