Market Overview

Resurgent Natural Gas? Try These ETFs (KOL, FCG, XOP)


One day does not make a new trend, but natural gas bulls must be feeling a little better today as that downtrodden commodity is rallying after the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration said that U.S. nat gas inventories fell to 2.369 trillion cubic feet in week ending March 9. That's a decline of 64 billion cubic feet, better than 56-60 billion cubic feet draw analysts had forecast.

Still, it's hard to get excited about nat gas when the chart for the U.S. Natural Gas Fund (NYSE: UNG) looks like this. Potentially, there's a long-term bull case and it starts with the fact that the U.S. is the world's largest nat gas producer and includes rising liquefied natural gas demand from Asian buyers.

As the Washington Post noted today, nat gas prices in Asia are four times higher than in the United States. Indeed, there might be something to said for considering nat gas ETFs not named UNG before they take off. Here are some to consider.

Market Vectors Coal ETF (NYSE: KOL) Maybe the only group of executives cheering for a continued surge in nat gas prices more than the guys from the gas producers themselves are the guys from coal companies. The Market Vectors Coal ETF used to be one of the ideal risk on trades, but the fund has been a lethargic performer this year because low nat gas prices have made that cleaner-burning fuel an attractive coal alternative among for electric utilities.

Just look at the charts of Peabody Energy (NYSE: BTU) and Alpha Natural Resources (NYSE: ANR), two KOL holdings. Those stocks have followed gas prices down and are bouncing today on the inventory news.

First Trust ISE-Revere Natural Gas Index Fund (NYSE: FCG) As long as natural gas is found in the name of this ETF, it will be perceived as a nat gas play. There's more to FCG's story but the ETF's roster is still loaded with companies that are viewed as more gas than oil plays. The bottom line is FCG is still sensitive to nat gas headlines, a notion highlighted by the fact the ETF is up almost 1% today.

Energy Select Sector SPDR (NYSE: XLE) An obvious one, but when Exxon Mobil (NYSE: XOM) and Chevron (NYSE: CVX) account for almost a third of an ETF's weight, that fund belongs in a lot of energy-related discussions. For its part, Exxon is the largest U.S. nat gas producer, a point of contention of with investors. Exxon certainly needs to boost oil production because analysts and shareholders just aren't going to be satisfied with increased gas output, but if gas prices climb, Exxon is a logical winner.

ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP), the third-largest U.S. oil company and XLE's fourth-largest holding, has also been criticized for being a bit too gassy, so XLE is arguably well-positioned to benefit from rising nat gas prices.

SPDR S&P Oil & Gas Exploration & Production ETF (NYSE: XOP) The utility of the SPDR S&P Oil & Gas Exploration & Production ETF knows no bounds as the ETF is useful for numerous energy-related investment ideas. A majority of XOP's holdings would gain some benefit from higher nat gas prices and if that doesn't pique your interest, well this ETF is a fine high oil play as well. Not to mention, the recent consolidation in the $59-$60 area could be a sign the ETF is getting ready to breakout and head back to $65.


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