The VanEck Vectors Coal ETF (NYSEArca: KOL) is up more than 27% year-to-date and hit a 52-week high on Wednesday. An important fundamental catalyst has brought short-term relief to the previously beleaguered U.S. coal industry.

With U.S. demand for coal in question, producers may be forced to international markets, mainly emerging economies, such as China. Increased steel production could also help U.S. producers of metallurgical coal. Low natural gas prices have previously weighed on coal as U.S. utility providers have turned to cleaner natural gas to power homes and businesses.

“United States coal sales abroad over the first three quarters of the year surpassed exports for all of 2016, according to government figures,” reports the New York Times. “Energy experts project an increase of 46 percent for the full year, adding more than $1 billion to coal companies’ revenues.”

A centerpiece of President Trump’s campaign was reaching out to coal miners, a strategy that helped Trump win nearly all the major coal-producing states with the exception of Illinois. Of course, any politician must make good on promises made to voters or risk being defeated in the next election. The 2020 presidential election is a long way off, but Trump needs to get coal miners back to work. Whether he can is another story.

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