Natural gas is a mix of gaseous hydrocarbons mostly burned as fuel and usually found with or near petroleum deposits. Markets like natural gas and those for petreoluem products like crude and refined oil are jointly called energy markets and are considered a key indicator of the performance of the global economy.
Investors in the broader natural-gas market use the AMEX Natural Gas Index (XNG), which includes the 15 largest listed explorers and producers, as a benchmark for the sector. Established in 1993 with a value of 300, the XNG's better-known components include Chesapeake Energy (CHK), Southwestern Energy (SWN) and Nicor Inc. (GAS) and most recently traded (November 25, 2008) at 392.46.
The spot price and futures price of U.S. natural gas, like that of its refined hydrocarbon counterpart gasoline, has plunged recently on news that stores of natural gas are higher than expected amid the global credit crisis and subsequent economic slowdown, both of which will reduce demand. A forecast cold winter for America's north-eastern states, which rely heavily on natural gas for home heating, have rallied prices somewhat but energy traders say continued financial turmoil will likely maintain a bear market in natural gas for the near-to-medium future.