The U.S. Energy Department's weekly inventory release showed a lower-than-expected increase in natural gas supplies. The encouraging inventory numbers, coupled with the prospect of more weather-related consumption and strong liquefied natural gas (“LNG”) feedgas deliveries, mean that the fuel’s prices will continue to climb higher.
EIA Reports a Build Smaller Than Market Expectations
Stockpiles held in underground storage in the lower 48 states rose by 16 billion cubic feet (Bcf) for the week ended Jul 2 compared to the guidance of a 33 Bcf addition per the analysts surveyed by S&P Global Platts. The increase was also below last year’s addition of 57 Bcf for the same corresponding week and the five-year (2016-2020) average net build of 63 Bcf.
The latest injection puts total natural gas stocks at 2,574 billion cubic feet (Bcf), which is 551 Bcf (17.6%) below the 2020 level at this time and 190 Bcf (6.9%) lower than the five-year average. Total supply of natural gas averaged 97.1 Bcf per day, down 0.5% on a weekly basis due to a decrease in dry production. Meanwhile, daily consumption fell 3.3% to 87.8 Bcf from 90.8 Bcf in the previous week, primarily due to a lower power burn (or cooling demand) on the back of easing temperatures. Natural Gas Registers a Weekly Decline
Natural gas prices trended downward last week despite the lower-than-expected inventory build. Futures for August delivery ended Friday at nearly $3.674 per million British thermal units (MMBtu) on the New York Mercantile Exchange, down 0.7% from the previous week’s closing when it reached its highest since December 2018. The decrease in the price of natural gas is the result of dissipation of the record heat wave, which translated into a slight dip in demand for the fuel.
As is the norm with natural gas, changes in temperature and weather forecasts can lead to price swings. While a reprieve from the very high temperatures last week brought about a decline in natural gas demand, the latest models are anticipating higher near-term consumption prompted by hot trends over much of the Lower 48, putting upward pressure on prices. With healthy LNG export likely to provide further support to U.S. natural gas futures, the scenario for the commodity is expected to be bullish.
The upward trend should aid gas-weighted producers like SilverBow Resources ( SBOW Quick Quote SBOW - Free Report) , Range Resources Corporation ( RRC Quick Quote RRC - Free Report) and Antero Resources ( AR Quick Quote AR - Free Report) . SilverBow and Range Resources sport a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy), while Antero carries a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). You can see . the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here Over 60 days, SilverBow has seen the Zacks Consensus Estimate for 2021 increase 3.2%. SilverBow controls 165,000 net acres in the Eagle Ford and around 80% of its total output comprises natural gas. SilverBow Resources’ exposure to premium markets and focus on costs and margins should help it to benefit from rising natural gas prices. Range Resources has a strong footing in the prolific Appalachian Basin. In the gas-rich resource, the upstream firm has huge inventories of low-risk drilling sites that are likely to provide production for several decades. Over 60 days, Range Resources has seen the Zacks Consensus Estimate for 2021 increase 28.3%. Antero Resources’ asset base — primarily focused on natural gas — is also concentrated on the Appalachian Basin. Antero Resources has amassed approximately 513,000 net acres of rich properties located in West Virginia and Ohio. Over 60 days, the firm has seen the Zacks Consensus Estimate for 2021 increase 31.3%. For natural gas operators like Comstock Resources ( CRK Quick Quote CRK - Free Report) and EQT Corporation ( EQT Quick Quote EQT - Free Report) , investors should preferably wait for a better entry point before buying shares in them. Both companies carry a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold).