PARALLELS IN US NATURAL GAS: 2012 AND 2016 BUILD SEASONS © Leo Haviland, July 4, 2016


Cultural viewpoints (including variables selected, organized, and assessed) regarding the past and present or focused on an anticipated future reflect opinions, not science. Moreover, marketplaces “themselves” are not unchanging or Natural phenomena. In any case, marketplace history does not necessarily repeat itself, whether entirely, partly, or at all.


The United States natural gas build season spans roughly from the end of calendar March to the end of calendar October. America’s natural gas 2016 inventory build season, including its price trends, although it has several more months to run, nevertheless presents several parallels with 2012’s build season. Assuming inventory forecasts for the balance of the 2016 build season come true, one crucial similarity between 2012 and 2016 will be substantially diminishing US natural gas oversupply over the course of build season.

The winters of 2011-12 and 2015-16 not only ended with massive supplies, but also completed long-running major bear trends. In commodity arenas, all else equal, and absent some revolutionary developments on the supply or demand side, there is some tendency for gigantic oversupply (mammoth inventories) accompanied by sustained depressed prices eventually to be reversed by falling production, increasing demand, or both. In natural gas, if prolonged bullish weather patterns appear (such as a torrid summer or frigid winter), they obviously can help to minimize the bearish oversupply situation or transform it to a bullish one.

Also, although natural gas price trends do not always closely intertwine with those of the petroleum marketplace (or commodities “in general”), or with other financial playgrounds such as stocks, currencies (especially the US dollar), and American government and other benchmark interest rates, they can entangle with them. In second half 2012, important stock and commodity marketplaces rallied and the dollar paused in its appreciation. In mid-first quarter 2016, a similar “overall” phenomenon occurred. In both time periods, ongoing or anticipated (eventual) monetary easing by key central banks likely assisted the bull moves in stocks and commodities, including natural gas.

Finally, at times the CFTC’s Commitments of Traders reveals patterns for noncommercial participants (investors, speculators) in natural gas relevant for assessing price trends. The net noncommercial positions in the later stages of the bear trends which ended in 2012 and 2016 present roughly similar patterns.


From the historical distance (price move) perspective, ten major NYMEX natural gas bear moves prior to 2014-16’s tumble traveled an average of 65.9 percent. For the seven collapses beginning with the December 1996 one, the average downturn is 70.4pc. From the time parameter, the average decline for the 10 big bear moves was about nine and three-quarter months. For the most recent seven major bear moves preceding the one that began in February 2014, the duration averages about eleven and one-quarter.

The collapse from 2/24/14’s 6.493 major high to 3/4/16’s 1.611 low was 75.2 percent and just over 24 months. Thus the price move traveled moderately farther than average. Significantly, the two year decline since February 2014’s summit was more than twice as long as average major bear trends, surpassed only by the January 2010 to April 2012 crash (during which the price fell 68.9pc). Thus from the interrelated price and time variables (nearest futures continuation basis), and though history is not destiny, a major change from the long-running bear trend that commenced in February 2014 probably occurred following 3/4/16’s low.

Also note that March 2016’s 1.611 level stands within a range of other important support. Recall not only 4/19/12’s major low at 1.902, but also the double bottom of 1.85 (1/28/02)/1.76 (9/26/01), a trough at 1.735 on 9/5/96 alongside a low at 2/24/97 at 1.68, and 1998-99’s bottom (8/27/98 at 1.61/2/26/99 at 1.625). Also, the March 2016 trough did not break 12/18/15’s interim low at 1.684 by much.

Moreover, from a calendar day viewpoint, March 4 is within several days of the February dates for the important late February bottoms of 1997 (2/24/97 at 1.68) and 1999 (2/26/99 at 1.625). In addition, the March 2016 low is a two year diagonal time move relative to the late February 2014’s pinnacle.

“US Natural Gas: Traveling Forward” (6/13/16) emphasized: “The United States natural gas (NYMEX nearest futures continuation basis) major bear trend that followed 2/24/14’s major peak at 6.493 ended with 3/4/16’s 1.611 bottom. What if a torrid summer 2016 dramatically reduces the stock build total and thus helps containment fears for end build season 2016 to disappear? Then prices likely will not revisit the 1.60/1.90 range, but instead will maintain their ascent toward [the significant resistance range of] 3.10/3.45… The US natural gas supply/demand perspective over the so-called long run is moderately bullish. Assuming normal winter 2016-17 weather, moderate US economic growth, and no renewed collapse in the overall commodities complex (particularly petroleum), gas prices probably will march higher.”

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Parallels in US Natural Gas- 2012 and 2016 Build Seasons (7-4-16)