One of my favorite natural gas trades

Pavel Hála | Trading ideas | 18. 2. 2013

Time has come to enter one of my favorite spread trades. It’s in NYMEX natural gas – NGQ13-NGM13. I made money on this spread every single year during last five years. I consider NG to be a great commodity for spread trading. This spread trade is also a very conservative because you can set just small stoploss. Therefore even people without huge account can trade it. That don’t means you shouldn’t be careful. Just remember Amaranth Advisors hedge fund. It was one of the largest hedge fund collapses in history losing more than $5 billion in total. An what Amaranth was doing? Yes they were trading natural gas spreads like this one. CFTC later charged them with natural gas market manipulation and impact of their collapse will be clearly visible even in our charts.

But lets take a look on our spread:

ngq13-ngm13_price

It has started to move up. It can decline back to 0.06 but current price is still good. Now our seasonality study from spreadcharts.com:

ngq13-ngm13_seasonality

The seasonal uptrend shall start to have an effect right now. And by the way why this spread? What’s the fundamental idea behind it? Well it’s simple. In summer there is quite hot in the US and people tend to have air conditioners in their homes, offices and factories constantly switched on. This consumes huge amounts of electricity. And this electricity comes from natural gas power plants because they can be easily turned on for the summer season (much more easily compared to nuclear power plants). So the idea is that demand for the August contract (deliverable at the end of July) will be much greater than demand for the June contract (deliverable at the end of May) because statistically saying it’s more hot in July and August than it’s in May and June.

The seasonality chart above shows clear seasonal uptrend. But there is one abnormal year in it – 2006. Well yes, that’s the year of Amaranth’s collapse (that happened in September 2006). Luckily in our spreadcharts.com charts we can easily hide this particular year by clicking on it in the legend. After doing so we can see nice seasonal channel:

ngq13-ngm13_seasonality1

And this year price happens to be near the bottom of the channel meaning there is a lot of space to go up. Now lets talk about liquidity. Natural gas spreads are very liquid and have very tight bid/ask spreads. This is the reason many people like them to trade. It’s also the case with this spread:

ngq13-ngm13_volume

Open interest and volume has been both rising rapidly since the beginning of the year. I will also show you a chart you haven’t seen before. It’s a relative volume analysis and it’s showing some interesting dependencies between volume and OI distribution and the price. Basically the same chart as the one above but displaying comparative analysis between both contracts. You get it simply by clicking on the “Relative” button in the bottom right corner of the volume analysis chart. Btw spreadcharts.com have relative analysis also for seasonality so try it.

ngq13-ngm13_relvolume

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