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Why EIA Data Might Not Satisfy Natural Gas Bulls

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Nov. 20 2020, Updated 4:10 p.m. ET

Inventories spread and natural gas prices

In the week ending December 28, the inventories spread was -17.2%. The inventories spread is the difference between natural gas inventories and their five-year average. During this period, the inventories spread contracted by two percentage points compared to the previous week.

On January 4, the EIA reported the natural gas inventory data for the week ending on December 28.

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Natural gas inventories

The natural gas price is usually inversely related to the inventories spread. However, the relationship seems to be more biased toward a price downside when inventories rise above the five-year average. The market might be confident about having enough future supply instead of being concerned about demand getting out of hand.

Since January 4, the natural gas February futures have fallen 2.5%. During the same period, natural-gas-weighted stocks Southwestern Energy (SWN), Gulfport Energy (GPOR), Range Resources (RRC), and Antero Resources (AR) rose 5.4%, 4.9%, 2.9%, and 2.1%, respectively, and underperformed their peers. The remaining natural-gas-weighted stocks ended in the green in this period.

Between January 4 and January 8, the SPDR S&P Oil & Gas Exploration & Production ETF (XOP) and the Energy Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLE) rose 4.4% and ~2.3%, respectively. These ETFs hold natural gas producer stocks.

Required fall in inventories

On January 10, the EIA is scheduled to release its natural gas inventory report for the week ending on January 4. Any fall by more than ~140 billion cubic feet could cause the inventories to expand more into the negative territory, but Reuters analysts expect a draw of just 95 Bcf, which might not be a positive development for natural gas prices.

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