ETF Trends
ETF Trends

The pain has continued for the Market Vectors-Coal ETF (NYSEArca: KOL) in 2014. KOL, the dominant name among coal exchange traded funds, has tumbled 13.4%, a dour performance compared to a 5.5% gain for the Materials Select Sector SPDR (NYSEArca: XLB).

Coal companies also took a hit after demand for metallurgical coal – coal used in production of metals like steel – faltered on slowing growth in China. In May, coal stocks weakened after Stanford University became the first major university to divest from fossil fuel producers perceived as major polluters. [Investors Keep Faith in Coal ETF]

Despite numerous obituaries having been written for coal and some of the stocks held by KOL, the commodity still powers 40% of electricity usage. Importantly, KOL is one of several sector and industry ETFs that have been highlighted as potential beneficiaries of the Republican landslide in last week’s mid-term elections. [Medical Device ETFs Like Election Results]

With that fundamental catalyst in mind, it is also important to analyze coal from a technical perspective.

“The mid-term elections last week have stirred up some thoughts that the Republican party can bring coal back to life,” notes Chris Kimble of Kimble Charting Solutions. “I believe the price point for KOL is very important, as it is testing the underside of channel support as resistance, for the first time.

In fairness to KOL, the ETF has recently displayed better price action, rising almost 7% over the past month. Over that time, Consol Energy (NYSE: CNX), Joy Global (NYSE: JOY), Peabody Energy (NYSE: BTU) and Alliance Resource Partners (NasdaqGS: ARLP), KOL’s four largest U.S.-listed holdings, are up an average of more than 15%.

“Some of the coal names above have had some very volatile days over the past few weeks, as it appears this sector might have a few traders interested in nibbling at depressed levels,” according to Kimble. “Knowing what the Republicans can or will do with this industry is well above my pay grade! Humbly, I do feel what KOL does at this resistance point could give us some sense of where the Coal industry is going in the near future.”

Even a move above its 50-day moving average could spark KOL. The ETF resides just 2.5% below that line, which it has not closed above since September.

Despite its struggles, investors have stuck by KOL, pouring $21.5 million of the ETF’s $156.4 million in assets under management into the fund this year.

Chart Courtesy: Kimble Charting Solutions