Normally at this time of year natural gas prices retreat and companies actually stash natural gas in storage for use during hurricane outages in the fall and winter heating season.
Not this year, however. Today natural gas prices in the U.S. hit a new 18-year high. At 11:20 a.m. New York time natural gas for June delivery climbed to $8.08 per million BTUs, up 8.12% on the morning
Oil, in contrast, was down slightly this morning with U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate off 0.91% to $104.21 a barrel.
The cause of the climb in natural gas prices is very clear. Sanctions against Russia have cut into supply from that country. Which has raised global prices for natural gas. U.S. natural gas companies, having been told by Wall Street repeatedly to stop spending so much on exploration and development and return more cash to shareholders (and to stop wading in red ink), are now reluctant to increase spending on expanding supply. So far it looks like U.S. shale producers are holding their spending discipline but this is a very tough call. Prices are high so expanding production would be very profitable, but no one knows for how long. The war in Ukraine will end (one day) and sanctions on Russian natural gas will be reversed (probably), all of which would cause prices to fall. Plus natural gas company CEO’s know that efforts to limit global warming make it likely that some natural gas discovered today will never be sent to market.
In morning trading today, May 3, the biggest winners are the companies with the most exposure to natural gas. Cheniere Energy (LNG), an exporter of liquified natural gas, was up 3.54% as of 11:20 a.m. Equinor (EQNR), Norway’s big natural gas (and oil) producer was up 2.39%. Pioneer Natural Resources (PXD) had gained 2.35%. ConocoPhillips (COP) was up 3.14%. On the other hand, U.S. Oil Fund (USO) was down 1.70%.