For Immediate Release
Chicago, IL – June 5, 2012 – Zacks.com announces the list of stocks featured in the Analyst Blog. Every day the Zacks Equity Research analysts discuss the latest news and events impacting stocks and the financial markets. Stocks recently featured in the blog include McGraw-Hill Companies Inc (MHP), Ultra Petroleum Corp. (UPL), Talisman Energy Inc. (TLM), Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) and ConocoPhillips (COP).
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Here are highlights from Monday’s Analyst Blog:
Another Below-Average Nat Gas Build
Stockpiles held in underground storage in the lower 48 states rose by 71 billion cubic feet (Bcf) for the week ended May 25, 2012, within the guidance range (of 67–71 Bcf gain) as per the analysts surveyed by Platts, the energy information arm of McGraw-Hill Companies Inc (MHP).
However, the increase – the eleventh injection of 2012 – was lower than both last year’s build of 89 Bcf and the 5-year (2007–2011) average addition of 100 Bcf for the reported week, thereby trimming the surplus relative to the benchmarks.
But in spite of the ‘below-average’ build during the past week, the current storage level – at 2.815 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) – is still up 732 Bcf (35.1%) from last year and 724 Bcf (34.6%) over the five-year average.
Due to this huge natural gas surplus, inventories in underground storage started to climb since March – weeks earlier than the usual summer stock-building season of April through October. They have persistently exceeded the five-year average since late September last year and are likely to test the nation’s underground storage facilities by fall. In fact, the EIA foresees natural gas storage at record highs of 4.10 Tcf by October.
A supply glut has pressured natural gas prices during the past year or so, as production from dense rock formations (shale) – through novel techniques of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing – remain robust, thereby overwhelming demand.
Natural gas prices have dropped approximately 53% from 2011 peak of $4.92 per million Btu (MMBtu) in June to the current level of around $2.30 (referring to spot prices at the Henry Hub, the benchmark supply point in Louisiana). Incidentally, prices hit a 10-year low of $1.82 during late April.
To make matters worse, near-record mild weather across most of the country curbed natural gas demand for heating all winter, leading to an early beginning for the stock-building season. The grossly oversupplied market continues to pressure commodity prices in the backdrop of sustained strong production.
This has forced several natural gas players to announce drilling/volume curtailments. Exploration and production outfits like Ultra Petroleum Corp. (UPL), Talisman Energy Inc. (TLM) and Encana have all reduced their 2012 capital budget to minimize investments in development drilling.
On the other hand, Oklahoma-based Chesapeake – the second-largest U.S. producer of natural gas behind Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) – and rival explorer ConocoPhillips (COP) have opted for production shut-ins to cope with the weak environment for natural gas that is likely to prevail during the year.
However, we feel these planned reductions will not be enough to balance out the massive natural gas supply/demand disparity, and therefore we do not expect much upside in gas prices in the near term. In other words, there appears no reason to believe that the supply overhang will subside and natural gas will be out of the dumpster in 2012.
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