After months of favorable trading conditions, natural gas exchange traded funds experienced their sharpest decline in nine months on an unexpectedly high inventory level, which has some wondering if this is just the beginning of more to come.
The United States Natural Gas Fund (UNG) plunged 6.1% during Thursday trading. UNG has gained 26% over the past three months.
Natural gas futures pulled back after the Energy Information Administration announced that inventories increased 43 billion cubic feet in the week ended April 26, compared to analyst estimates of a 29 billion gain, Bloomberg reports. [Natural Gas ETF Pauses After Big Rally]
“It was a bearish injection and it may set the tone for future storage reports,” Kent Bayazitoglu, an analyst at Gelber & Associates, said in the article. “The big question is whether we’re going to start seeing mega-injections that really start to refill inventories.”
U.S. natural gas output rose 0.8% in April. “New wells were brought online in the Marcellus and Bakken Shales,” which drove the biggest volume gains, according to the EIA.
Natural gas futures were down 6.1% to $4.06 per million British thermal units in mid-day trading Thursday.
Options traders were hedging their exposure, with puts accounting for about 50% of trading volume.
Nevertheless, the current stockpile increase was smaller than the five-year average of 67 billion cubic feet for this time of year. Supplies are also 30.9% below year-over-year inventory levels.
The lingering cold weather has helped stoke demand for natural gas. Around 50% of U.S. households utilize natural gas for heating and power generation accounts for 33% of gas demand. [Natural Gas ETF Jumps Over 5%]
Looking ahead, the MDA Weather Services forecasts mostly normal or higher-than-average temperatures in the lower-48 states over the next week.
United States Natural Gas Fund
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Max Chen contributed to this article.