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Natural gas has been a reliable source of energy since the mid-19th Century and currently makes up around 3% of South Africa’s annual energy production. However, it’s wider availability and necessity in other countries, such as the US, means it has become a mainstream commodity on the financial markets.
There are plenty of ways to invest in natural gas, and we’ve pulled together the main ones here.
1. Invest in natural gas ETFs
Exchange-traded funds are a way of investing your money in a wider selection of assets rather than trusting just a few firms.
Most ETFs are simple and accessible, and trading them works in a similar way to regular stocks. As well as being relatively straightforward, ETFs are also seen as less risky. By investing in a basket of assets, you insulate yourself to some of the daily fluctuations of the market.
If you are new to the world of investing, then ETFs may be the best choice for you; natural gas is an incredibly popular commodity with a range of companies and ETFs to choose from. Some of the most popular include:
- Natural gas price ETFs
- Wisdom Tree Natural Gas (NGAS), which tracks the Bloomberg Natural Gas Subindex and provides a collateral yield
- United States Natural Gas Fund (UNG), which tracks the commodity price
- VelocityShares 3x Long Natural Gas (UGAZ), which is a leveraged ETF for short-term trading that aims to triple the daily movements of the natural gas price
- VelocityShares 3x Inverse Natural Gas (DGAZ), which is an inverse leveraged ETF for short-term trading that aims to triple the daily movements in the opposite direction of the natural gas price
- Natural gas company ETFs
- iShares U.S. Oil & Gas Exploration & Production ETF (IEO), which tracks an index of about 50 oil and gas explorers and producers
- SPDR S&P Oil & Gas Exploration & Production ETF (XOP), which tracks an index of oil and gas explorers and producers
- VanEckVectors Unconventional Oil & Gas ETF (FRAK), which tracks an index of nearly 40 companies involved in fracking or other methods of extracting coal seam gas, shale gas and more
- First Trust Natural Gas ETF (FCG), which tracks more than 30 natural gas explorers and producers
- ETFs give you widespread access to the natural gas industry at a competitive price.
- In comparison to some of the other options, ETFs are seen as a safer, more reliable choice for investors.
- There is less control over your investment due to the diverse range of assets in an ETF.
2. Buy MLP stocks
Master limited partnerships (MLPs) offer tax advantages in that profits are only taxed when they are distributed to the general and limited partners of the company. Many MLPs are attractive to long-term investors because their business structure is designed in a way that requires them to return profits to investors quarterly through high dividend payments.
There are risks that come with MLPs, however; those include variations in demand, market volatility and the fluctuations of prices, new legislation, environmental disasters or hazards, and political and social shifts. While ETFs may be considered diluted in a sense, they’re still generally considered a safer option as you aren’t relying on the performance of one or two companies.
Conduct due diligence on these popular options:
- MLP ETFs
- Alerian MLP ETF (AMLP), which tracks an index of about 25 infrastructure MLP stocks
- JPMorgan Alerian MLP Index ETN (AMJ), which tracks a more general oil and gas MLP index
- MLP stocks
- Energy Transfer (ET)
- Enterprise Products Partners (EPD)
- MPLX (MPLX)
- Cheniere Energy Partners (CQP)
- Some of the dividend payments offered can bring strong returns on your investment.
- MLPs are easy to access through brokerage accounts and financial advisors.
- As with shares, businesses with an interest in the manufacturing process can influence market value, meaning stock prices may not be in line with commodity prices.
- Demand and market risk can have an impact on MLPs, and companies may choose to withdraw their dividends.
3. Buy shares in natural gas companies
Stocks are one of the more conventional ways to invest in a commodity. Being as popular and necessary as it is, there are multiple natural gas companies to choose from. While many are big oil names you’re familiar with, others are smaller names of specialty companies. Stocks are simple to buy through brokerage accounts and financial advisors. Here are a few to consider researching:
- Big producers
- Sasol (SOL)
- Exxon Mobil (XOM)
- British Petroleum (BP)
- ConocoPhillips (COP)
- Smaller natural gas companies
- Anadarko Petroleum (APC)
- Chesapeake Energy (CHK)
- Devon Energy (DVN)
- Encana (ECA)
Buying stocks takes some knowledge of the market and its fluctuations but can be safer than investing in futures due to buying stock at the price displayed.
- One of the most conventional and accessible ways of entering the market.
- Choose from a variety of different companies.
- Exit the market at any time.
- Interference from businesses involved in the refining and distribution processes can curb a company’s stock value, meaning value doesn’t always grow at the same rate as the price of the commodity.
4. Buy natural gas futures
Futures are a direct but more advanced and risky investment that’s subject to both the fluctuations of the market and the knowledge of the buyer. A high-risk, high-reward system, newcomers may want to gain some experience in the field before purchasing futures. To trade futures, you’ll need one of the handful of popular brokerage accounts that support futures; not all mainstream brokerages do.
Futures, as the name suggests, are a way of buying natural gas directly at a later date and an agreed-upon price. They’re a staple for big natural gas producers or utilities that buy vast amounts of natural gas, though seasoned investors and speculators can also trade them; depending on market movements, you may end up making a solid return on your investment or just as easily lose your money.
- With a good knowledge of the market and some good fortune, natural gas futures could bring you large returns on your investment.
- A very direct way of owning a commodity.
- The market is unpredictable and constantly fluctuating, and futures are vulnerable to these movements. Investing at the wrong time could lead to losses.
- If you don’t act on futures within the specified period, they expire and are worth nothing.
Is natural gas a safe investment?
The world relies on natural gas for energy that’s cleaner than coal, and its abundance makes it quite a reliable commodity on the stock market. However, the market is never completely safe, and natural gas is no exception:
- Pipeline incidents: A risk for the environment as well as your profits, a burst pipeline can have disastrous effects on both your investments and the ecosystem at large.
- Dividend cuts: Gas companies often distribute dividends which allow investments to generate regular income. If a company cannot make enough money, however, dividends can be cut. This can lead to stock prices plummeting.
- Price volatility: Prices for natural gas have fluctuated violently over the years, usually as a result of shifts in supply. Gas is also seasonal, with people using more during the winter, which also affects prices.
There are several ways to invest in natural gas, including gas futures, shares, ETFs and MLPs. But keep an eye out for pipeline incidents and dividend cuts.
Not sure natural gas is the right addition to your portfolio? Review your investment options across additional trading platforms and commodities.
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