Natural Gas Hits 5-Year Highs: Buy These 4 Production Leaders Now

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In a very odd energy juxtaposition, while oil continues to get hammered and sinks to 2018 lows, natural gas is over the $4 level and is the highest it’s been since 2014. Plus, with more cold weather expected this winter due to a lack of solar sunspot activity, the price could continue to go even higher. For investors looking for a hot trade idea, the top natural gas producers may be just the ticket.

Given the big run-up in natural gas prices, and many of the energy stocks getting hit due to the slide in the crude pricing, we decided to screen out 24/7 Wall St. research database looking for the biggest producers of natural gas. We found four of the small and mid-cap companies that could be timely stocks to buy now.

Antero Resources

This company with big potential for investors got tagged recently and is offering a nice entry point. Antero Resources Corporation (NYSE: AR) is engaged in the exploration, development and acquisition of natural gas, natural gas liquids (NGLs) and oil properties located in the Appalachian Basin. Other activities include water handling and treatment, and marketing of excess firm transportation capacity.

The company’s subsidiary, Antero Midstream Partners, is a master limited partnership that owns, operates and develops midstream energy infrastructure primarily to service its production and completion activity. Its exploration and development activities are supported by the natural gas gathering and compression assets. The combination of the two makes this a solid pick for investors.

Wall Street has a consensus price target of $24.42, but the shares closed trading on Tuesday at $15.27.

Cabot Oil and Gas

This is another top natural gas play, and with many expecting a very cold winter, this could also be a timely pick. Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. (NYSE: COG) produces mostly natural gas in the United States, with operations primarily in Appalachia and an ancillary position Eagle Ford. The company has lined up very high-quality growth assets in the Marcellus Shales and is aggressively moving to develop these fields. Production and reserves are 96% natural gas.

U.S. energy firms are scrambling to finish a slew of pipelines that will unleash rich reserves of shale gas in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio as the nation prepares to become one of the world’s top natural gas exporters. Cabot figures to be a big player in this evolution and offers solid value and current trading levels.

The company boasts one of the best-in-class free-cash-flow generation stories in the sector, and the recent pullback in the shares offers a very solid entry point.

Shareholders receive a 1.06% dividend. The consensus price target is $26.71. Shares closed Tuesday at $26.49, up over 4% on the day.

EQT

This company is expected to have a stunning percentage of its production come in as natural gas. EQT Corp.’s (NYSE: EQT) superior cost structure and above-average growth may help it exploit stable and rising natural gas prices. With an increasing reserve structure and a projected higher number of Marcellus wells to be drilled in the coming five years, the company exhibits industry-leading organic growth momentum.

With more than 125 years of experience, EQT continues to be a leader in the use of advanced horizontal drilling technology. This technology is designed to minimize the potential impact of drilling-related activities and reduce the overall environmental footprint.

EQT investors receive a 0.33% dividend. The stunning $56 consensus price target compares with the latest close at $18.65.

Southwestern Energy

This company has traded sideways all year long and could be ready to run. Southwestern Energy Co. (NYSE: SWN) is one of the largest U.S. natural gas producers. Its primary producing locations are the Fayetteville and the Marcellus Shale. The company has acquired acreage in SW Appalachia that is exceeding expectations and provides a runway to growth.

Southwestern has invested heavily in the Marcellus play, where it holds leases in approximately 337,300 net acres. Reports indicate that the company has increased its acreage in the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania by acquiring interest from other stakeholders.

The company reported a solid quarter with an earnings beat, primarily on higher gas and NGL realizations. The First Upper Devonian well was encouraging but it may take time for Wall Street to get comfortable that this could be next leg of the story. The sheer increase in gas prices could also boost interest.

The consensus price objective is $6.40, and shares closed on Tuesday at $5.82.

These energy companies are among the top producers of natural gas and the related products. All have sizable upside to the Wall Street targets, but since the overall energy sector is being hit due to the fall in crude pricing, they too have been hit and could remain volatile. That could be just what savvy energy investors can feel good about.