Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Gas Takes Gas

The 'Helicopter Economics Investing Guide' is meant to help educate people on how to make profitable investing choices in the current economic environment. In addition to the term helicopter economics, we have also coined the term, helicopternomics, to describe the current monetary and fiscal policies of the U.S. government and to update the old-fashioned term wheelbarrow economics.

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Natural gas, the commodity, is having one of the most spectacular rallies of all times. It was up 11% yesterday alone. The near term contract hit a low of $2.40 and seems to be heading toward $4.00 (a low estimate of production costs). Even after the spectacular rally of the last few days, Natural gas futures are still in extreme contango. The October contract closed at 3.297 yesterday, while the February contract closed at 5.324. Actions of the commodities regulatory body, the CFTC, and its attempts to limit trading in the natural gas and oil markets have been responsible for natural gas's economically impossible behavior.

The CFTC drove oil ETF DXO out of business and is essentially trying to do the same with natural gas ETF UNG. UNG's price was artificially suppressed by actions of the CFTC and it has ceased to function according to any normal trading rules since this has taken place. An announcement from UNG that it would begin to issue shares on a restricted bases starting September 28th helped stoke yesterday's rally. By the beginning of the summer UNG owned 20% of futures contracts in the natural gas market and the big market players wanted the CFTC to crack down on it. Driving natural gas prices way down is also beneficial to the economy, so the government had a double motivation for interfering in the market.

An alternative ETF, GAZ, has been left alone by the CFTC and more closely reflects price action in the natural gas market. It's price movements are by no means ideal however. GAZ was up 4.5% yesterday, while UNG was up only 2.5%. Neither was up anywhere near 11%. The best performing Natural gas ETF was HZBBF (special thanks to New York Investing meetup member Kim L. for finding this obscure stock). It was up 19% yesterday. HZBBF seems to be the same as Canadian ETF HNU which represents two times natural gas (just as DXO did for oil), but it trades in the U.S. markets.

Natural gas is more subject to manipulation than other commodities because it is sold in regional markets. Unlike oil, it is hard to ship. Historically prices for natural gas are twice as much in Europe and Asia as in the U.S. Government attempts to control prices - and this is what the CFTC action represents - ALWAYS lead to shortages in the future. Natural gas will be no exception. Years from now we will look back and be amazed that natural gas was trading at $2.40 in 2009.

NEXT: Precious Metals Becoming More Precious

Daryl Montgomery
Organizer,New York Investing meetup

This posting is editorial opinion. Like all other postings for this blog, there is no intention to endorse the purchase or sale of any security.


Eric said...

should be hzbbf

Anonymous said...

"UNG's price was artificially suppressed by actions of the CFTC ".
How can this be true when UNG was trading at a premium (sometimes upto 20%) compared to it's NAV after the SEC/CFTC restrictions went into effect.

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