The probable range for the United States natural gas marketplace (NYMEX nearest futures continuation basis) for the next several months is a relatively broad avenue between major support at 1.65/1.90 and significant resistance at 3.10/3.45. For prices to sustain voyages over 3.00, it probably will require a significantly colder than normal winter or noteworthy cuts in natural gas production. A containment risk (supplies too high relative to available storage), although currently not probable, nevertheless lurks for the end of calendar 2016 build season, especially if 2015-16’s winter is warmer than usual. If significant containment problems develop, and perhaps even if the potential for significant containment difficulties significantly increases, the 1.65 to 1.90 floor could be broken.
The NYMEX natural gas major bear trend that followed 2/24/14’s major peak at 6.493 smashed through 4/27/15’s 2.443 low, tumbling to 1.948 on 10/27/15 (near NYMEX contract expiration; many key troughs have occurred around contract expiration). The late October 2015 depth borders the last prior major bottom, 1.902 on 4/19/12. Historical analysis indicates the bear trend from February 2014 to October 2015 travelled sufficiently far in price and duration terms to look for a trend shift from bearish to neutral or bullish. In addition, the most recent Commitments of Traders reports for key natural gas contracts reveal a massive net noncommercial short position. Many significant marketplace trend changes in natural gas roughly coincide with very elevated net long or short noncommercial positions. Current and (assuming normal weather) anticipated upcoming natural gas days coverage through winter 2015-16 and the 2016 build season appear fairly close to historical averages, particularly in the context of NYMEX natural gas prices well under 3.00.
However, the dramatic February 2014 to October 2015 price tumble is not the greatest or longest on record. So a further descent in NYMEX natural gas would not be unprecedented. Moreover, the days coverage perspective of course does not provide a complete viewpoint on the natural gas inventory situation and related price risks. After all, arithmetic quantities (bcf) of gas must be put in arithmetic storage places. And currently, the containment risks for the end of build season 2016 are not insubstantial; this bearish potentiality weighs on prices.
Natural gas prices often travel substantially independently of both petroleum (and commodities “in general”) and so-called “international” or “financial” factors. Trend changes in NYMEX natural gas need not coincide with one in the petroleum complex or in commodities in general.
However, especially since mid-to-late June 2014 (NYMEX natural gas nearest futures interim high 6/16/14 at 4.886) and into calendar 2015 (gas interim top 5/19/15 at 3.105), bearish natural gas price movements have intertwined with those in the petroleum complex (and commodities in general) and the bull move in the broad real trade-weighted US dollar. Such natural gas retreats to some extent have paralleled slumps in emerging marketplace stocks. Note also the timing coincidence between May 2015’s natural gas top and the S+P 500’s 5/20/15 high at 2135. See “Commodities: Captivating Audiences” (10/12/15) and other recent essays.
Worldwide OECD industry and United States petroleum stocks are very elevated. OPEC next meets 12/4/15. It remains determined to capture market share and induce output cutbacks by high-cost oil producers around the world (including some American and Canadian ones). Thus even if petroleum manages to rally further from its recent lows, it likely will remain relatively weak. The broad real trade-weighted United States dollar edged slightly lower (about one percent) to 97.0 in October 2015 from its September 2015 bull move high at 98.0 (Federal Reserve, H.10; monthly average), but it probably will remain relatively strong for the near term. Weak oil and a strong dollar, all else equal, are bearish factors for American natural gas prices.
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Dangerous Times in US Natural Gas (November 2, 2015)