Natural Gas Companies: A Contrarian Bet on Higher Prices

The decline in natural gas stocks has been anything but natural lately.

With ample stores and cheap prices, natural gas-related equities have taken a beating and continue to be battered.

While it is always difficult to call a bottom, the tide may be turning for natural gas companies despite the latest data.

The price of natural gas fell again last week after the government reported an unexpectedly large increase in supply. To date, natural gas prices have slumped to levels not seen in 10 years.

Recent Energy Information Administration (EIA) reports reveal that the energy industry continues to deliver gas at a faster rate than Americans can consume it.

US supplies grew by 42 billion cubic feet in the week ended March 30, pushing the country's total supply to 2.5 trillion cubic feet. According to Platts, a premier source for energy prices, industry analysts had expected supplies to grow between 33 billion to 37 billion cubic feet.

With natural gas stores bursting at the seams, some of the nation's largest producers have announced plans to scale back production.

Jen Snyder, head of North American gas for research firm Wood Mackenzie told the Washington Post, "There hasn't been enough demand to use all the supply being pushed into the market."

Where prices go from here depends a great deal on the weather.

Commodity Prices Drive Natural Gas Companies

A mild spring is forecast for most of the country, and the pleasant weather is expected to push natural gas prices even lower. A hot summer would enhance demand for the fuel as people crank up their air conditioners, requiring natural gas-fueled power plants to burn more of it.

Just this week natural gas prices continued their slide, falling below $2 per cubic foot.

Prices have not been below $2 since January 2002. Meanwhile, oil prices have stayed high and are taking a hefty chunk out of consumers' wallets.

Even so, several industry analysts see huge potential in the natural gas sector.

According to Money Morning Global Energy Strategist Dr. Kent Moors, low natural gas prices offer great opportunity.

"First," Moors said, "the price of natural gas will rise again. It's inevitable. And there is plenty of fundamental evidence in other commodity markets as to why. It might not be tomorrow, but it's coming."

"Second, and more important, investors seem so overly focused on the near-term asset performance that they fail to recognize real long-term potential," said Moors.

That allows investors to get in on natural gas companies while they are still cheap.

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