As a group, commodities performed miserably in the second quarter. The 8% decline for the PowerShares DB Commodity Index Tracking ETF (NYSEArca: DBC) tells the story, but it was gold and silver that garnered the bulk of the press.
Investors should not forget that natural gas futures also suffered through a dismal second quarter. The U.S. Natural Gas Fund (NYSEArca: UNG), which tracks natural gas futures, plunged almost 14% last quarter due to soaring inventories and mild weather after getting a lift in the first quarter due to low temperatures in some parts of the U.S. On June 27, UNG tumbled to its lowest levels since February due to rising inventories and mild weather forecasts. [Nat Gas ETF Falls on Inventories, Weather Forecasts]
Natural gas equities offered investors some refuge as the First Trust ISE-Revere Natural Gas Index Fund (NYSEArca: FCG) lost “just” 3.5% last quarter. FCG tracks a basket of 24 natural gas stocks, though many of the fund’s holdings have ample oil exposure, including Anadarko Petroleum (NYSE: APC) and Apache (NYSE: APA), a fact that helped the ETF remain somewhat durable as natural gas prices slid in the second quarter.
It is not just everyday investors that have incurred losses on the natural gas trades. Hedge funds such as Sasco Energy, Skylar Capital and Copperwood Energy took a bath shorting natural gas futures in the first quarter when futures spiked and those, such as Velite Capital, that were long into the second quarter took significant losses, report Barani Krishnan and Joe Siha for Reuters. Even with the second-quarter loss for natural gas, hedge funds that were short the commodity in the first quarter are still sitting on year-to-date losses.
July could be the month that decides whether nat gas bulls or bears emerge victorious in the near-term. Temperatures are soaring in the western part of the U.S. The mercury soared to 117 degrees in Las Vegas Sunday while flirting with 130 degrees in Death Valley, California. Those scorching temperatures could fuel electricity and air conditioning usage as Americans try to keep cool. [Natural Gas ETFs Turn up the Heat]
Around 32% of U.S. natural gas demand goes to power generation, according to the Energy Information Administration, and that could be good news for the ultra-volatile UNG this summer. There are never any guarantees that past performances will repeat, but for what it is worth, UNG closed at $19.30 on July 2, 2012. By the end of the month, the ETF was trading above $22.
U.S. Natural Gas Fund
ETF Trends editorial team contributed to this post.