The past few weeks have been a great time to be long in energy commodities as fears over a continued cutoff of Libyan supplies as well as hope for a more robust economic recovery has pushed a variety of products sharply higher. While everything from WTI and Brent crude to more obscure types such as heating oil and RBOB have risen in the time frame, one crucial product in the sector has failed to keep pace, natural gas.
The popular heating and cooling fuel has fallen by the wayside while the rest of the space has gained; UNG has fallen by over 4.3% in the past two weeks while USO has risen by over 1.1% in the same time period. This is largely thanks to the weather across much of the country which isn’t exactly bullish for natural gas prices. When temperatures are in the low 50s to high 60s people tend not to use the fuel to heat or cool their homes, allowing stockpiles to build ahead of the important cooling season that is likely to start in late May across much of the continental U.S. However, due to this situation, any changes to extremely hot or cold weather can greatly influence prices as it creates an unexpected drawdown that most market participants had not anticipated [What Every Investor Must Know About Commodity ETF Investing].
Due to this, today’s EIA weekly natural gas storage report should attract extra attention from traders in the commodities space. The report comes out each week on Thursday at 10:30 AM giving traders a look at what happened to natural gas stockpiles over the last week ending the previous Friday. Last week’s report saw stocks fall by 45 bcf down to 1,579 bcf although this is still above the five year average of 1,569 bcf. In the year ago period, the report that came out in the second week of April marked a relatively large addition to supplies of roughly 87bcf suggesting that expectations are likely low for another modest drawdown as we saw last week when temperatures remained frigid across much of the nation [see all the ETPs that track natural gas futures].
Thanks to this report, investors should look for the United States Natural Gas Fund (UNG) to remain in focus throughout today’s trading and likely see a volatile day. While the fund has experienced a large level of weakness in the past few weeks, a large drawdown or a prediction of a late April cold snap could send UNG soaring higher, potentially creating great short-term gains for traders. If, however, UNG supplies surge higher or are able to match the increase that investors saw in the year ago period, it could push UNG even lower, adding to the product’s underperformance when compared to the other major energy commodities [see all the ETFs in the Oil & Gas ETFdb Category].
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Disclosure: No positions at time of writing.
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