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The Catch-22s Keeping Nat Gas Stocks in the ICU

The $64,000 question for natural gas E&P stock investors is the point at which the E&P companies "call it a day" and stop drilling, doing their part to help bridge the gap between supply and demand.

For this read, the upcoming fourth-quarter earnings commentary from E&P companies will be key. Natural gas E&P CEOs have recently commented that at sub-$4 gas they would significantly lower gas-related spending. At sub-$3 gas, where the market is now, it would definitely have these companies re-thinking gas capex. That would bring down spending but also, as a result, bring down cash flow. It may be a wash in terms of any given stock, with the reduction in spending offsetting the market disappointment of less cash flow -- at least for less-indebted companies. However, even with the production shutdowns, it's not likely to do enough in the short-term to bail out natural gas spot market pricing.

"Supply in the end has to scale back. There has to be a cut back in production to really show improvement in price, but I don't know how to answer the question of when it turns, when companies take down production and spending enough," said McNamara.

Indeed, natural gas has become known by market professionals as "the widow maker" for good reason.

-- Written by Eric Rosenbaum from New York.

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>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Eric Rosenbaum.

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