National Fuel Shows Natural Gas Is 'Normal'

| About: Chesapeake Energy (CHK)

While most here at Seeking Alpha prefer debating the merits of Aubrey McClendon and Chesapeake Energy (NYSE:CHK), I thought it would be fun to see what normal looks like in a natural gas stock.

National Fuel (NYSE:NFG) reported its earnings last week and, as with the rest of the industry, the news was not good. Net income per share was cut nearly in half from a year earlier. Revenues were down, too.

CEO David Smith was straightforward on the news. Lower prices hurt both in the exploration and in the delivery business. National Fuel does a lot of its drilling in California and analysts are most interested in whether it can accelerate earnings there.

National Fuel and Chesapeake have their differences. National Fuel both explores for and sells gas to consumers, while Chesapeake is mainly an exploration company. But both are highly dependent for their results on the price of natural gas, which has been falling for most of the year but picked up a bit recently, as drillers reduced their activity.

So if you put money to work in both stocks a year ago, you're out of the money. What's surprising, despite ll the Chesapeake headlines, is that there is little difference in how out of the money you are. National Fuel is down 36%, Chesapeake 46%, but the two only began diverging a few months ago. Go back three months and National Fuel is a slow slope down, hovering near even until early April, then holding losses for the period to under 8%. It's Chesapeake that's been on the wilder ride, down 24% in a month.

The point is that, most of the time, there is not that much difference between the behavior of Chesapeake and a "normal" natural gas stock like National Fuel. It's Chesapeake's efforts to prevent collapse that, in effect, caused the stock to collapse. Rage against the dying of the light all you want, acceptance leads your money to a better place.

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.