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Patriot Problems Pressure Coal ETF

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Things are really going to worse from bad for the Market Vectors Coal ETF (NYSE: KOL), the dominant exchange-traded product devoted to coal stocks, this year. Shares of Patriot Coal (NYSE: PCX) are off more than 54% today on chatter the company may have to seek bankruptcy protection and there's speculation Patriot has met with restructuring advisers, perhaps a sign the company won't be able to meet its financing needs.

While Patriot only accounts for 0.72% of KOL's weight, an allocation that exceeds those of just seven other KOL constituents, the news is just the latest trouble spot for the ETF.

Volume is light today, but KOL is still off nearly 3% and, as of this writing, the ETF trades below $26, putting it within earshot of its 52-week low of $25.61. As Benzinga recently reported the ETF has seen massive redemptions in past year . From May 2011 to May 11, 2012, KOL's assets under management total plunged to about $180 million from $581 million. At the start of trading today, that number had fallen to $163.7 million.

KOL's current residence in the $25-$26 area is the first time the ETF has occupied that ominous domicile sine July 2009. The issuer may not be the viability of Patriot as a going concern, but rather the impact this news is having on the sector at large.

Peabody Energy (NYSE: BTU), the largest U.S. coal producer, is off 7% today. Alpha Natural Resources (NYSE: ANR) is off 5%. Walter Energy (NYSE: WLT) has slid 7% while Consol Energy (NYSE: CNX), perhaps saved by its natural gas exposure, is lower by more than 3%. Combined, those stocks account for approximately a quarter of KOL's weight and all but Consol have printed new 52-week lows today.

All that is to say Patriot may be small, but it's problems are large. One company sneezing has given KOL a nasty cold and that makes it easy to reiterate the view that down is the path of least resistance for this ETF.

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