Natural Gas Options Explained

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Russia’s energy sector explained in 4 simple questions

1. How much energy does Russia produce?

The official statistics from the Ministry of Energy show that in 2020 Russia pumped nearly 556 million tons of crude oil (including gas condensate) – a record in the last 30 years and close to the all-time maximum of 569.4 million tons back in 1987. Last year, the country also produced 725.4 billion cubic meters of natural gas, 439.3 million tons of coal and 1.092 trillion kWh of electricity.

To put this into perspective, according to Tatiana Mitrova, Head of Energy Center at the Moscow School of Management Skolkovo, such production volumes make Russia the third largest producer of energy after the United States and China. “We provide 10 percent of global primary energy production. And 16 percent of the whole global energy trade is provided by Russia. It’s really the biggest one if you put together different energy sources,” she said speaking at the UNICON 2020 Directors Conference in Moscow on April 24.

Tatiana Mitrova, Moscow School of Management Skolkovo

2. How much of it does Russia consume domestically?

Out of 556 million tons of crude oil that Russia produced in 2020 – 409.3 million tons were exported. The large outflux is because the country’s domestic consumption of oil has gradually been decreasing over the last 20 years: since 1990 exports of oil have climbed from 47.7 percent to 73.6 percent of total oil production. This is largely due to oil consumption being substituted by the increased consumption of natural gas. However, Russia remains the fourth largest energy consumer in the world with 5 percent share of global consumption.

“52 percent of total primary energy consumption is provided by natural gas which is the fossil fuel that produces the lowest amount of carbon gas emissions,” Mitrova explains. “There is quite a good percentage of nuclear and hydro energy, as well as small shares of other renewables, like solar and wind. But hydro is quite important.”

According to BP, in 2020 natural gas provided for 52.3 percent domestic consumption followed by oil (nearly 22 percent) and coal (13 percent). Renewables were the fastest-growing fuel but contributed only 0.04 percent to Russia’s primary energy consumption; in comparison, nuclear accounted for 6.6 percent.

3. Which countries are the main consumers of Russian energy?

The Central Bank of Russia’s statistics show that in 2020 Russia exported 260.2 million tons of crude oil, 150.1 million tons of oil products, 220.6 billion cubic meters of natural gas, and 36.7 cubic million cubic meters of liquefied natural gas (LNG).

According to Russian Vedomosti, oil exports have been largely refocusing from European to Asian consumers, with considerable volumes going to China. According to reports, in 2020 Russia supplied 71.5 million tons of oil products to China (a 20 percent increase from 2020).

Global Look Press

What’s also interesting is that the U.S. has increasingly been buying Russian oil to make up for lost deliveries from sanctions-hit Venezuela and supply cuts by OPEC members. Just in the first half of May, 13 ships from Russia delivered 5 million barrels of crude oil and oil products to the U.S. For all of 2020, shipments were about 137 million, according to EIA data.

As for natural gas, Russian state corporation Gazprom announced it supplied a total of 200.8 billion cubic meters of gas to Europe in 2020. Among the key importers are Germany (58.5 bcm), Turkey (nearly 24 bcm), Italy (22.8 bcm), UK (14.3 bcm) and France (nearly 13 bcm).

In addition, China and Russia have agreed on an annual supply of 1.3 trillion cubic meters of gas as soon as the Power of Siberia pipeline is operational.

Russian LNG (liquefied natural gas), in turn, made up 5.8 percent of all energy exports and primarily went to Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan – as reported by the International Group of LNG Importers (GIIGNL).

4. Is Russia developing alternative energy?

Yes. According to Mitrova, Russia is gradually investing in renewables by trying to localize equipment and obtain necessary competencies. Authorities are trying to create conditions for renewables to become economically competitive in particular locations.

“This is what the Russian government is trying to do with wind and solar [energy] right now. They’ve created a special tariff and are supporting it over other types of power generation. They aim to localize equipment production here in Russia and achieve large scale production, which will allow the energy to be sold at a lower price,” she says.

“After the necessary framework is created and initial investments in R&D are made, after the gray zones in regulation and smaller obstacles which are poisoning the life of companies developing renewables are removed, the state can step back and let the industry develop independently,” she says. “But this is only on the horizon in 10-15 years. After grid parity has more or less been achieved and new energy sources can compete. Then let the market work. In Russia the situation is aggravated by the heritage of state planning and strong centralization of the energy sector.”

One of the first positive examples of renewables pushing their way onto the market is of Russian company RusHydro that has launched a 900-kilowatt wind power plant in an Arctic settlement in the Yakutia region of Russia’s Far East.

Over the past five years, hydropower generation holding RusHydro has also commissioned and built 19 solar power plants with a combined capacity of 1.6 megawatts and four wind plants with a combined capacity of 3.1 MW in Russia’s Far East.

If using any of Russia Beyond’s content, partly or in full, always provide an active hyperlink to the original material.

Natural Gas

16.1 – History and background

I know this chapter on Natural Gas is coming in late; we should have discussed this much earlier, probably when we discussed Crude oil. Unfortunately, I missed doing this; but anyway, better late than never!

We will discuss Natural Gas in this chapter, and with that, we will conclude this module on Currencies and Commodities.

As usual, let us start our discussion with some background information, history, and how natural gas is extracted.

Natural gas is a naturally occurring, non-renewable, hydrocarbon gas mixture, primarily consisting of methane. Natural Gas is a fossil fuel and is used as an energy source. Natural gas has many applications in our day to day lives including electricity (generation process), heating, and cooking. Besides, natural gas also has a wide variety of application in the fertilizer and plastics industry.

Apparently, way back in 1000, B.C., natural gas seeped from the ground, on Mount Parnassus in ancient Greece, caught fire and a flame was lit.

The Greeks believed this was the Oracle at Delphi, and a temple was built. This has to be the first ever reference to Natural Gas. By the way, do you wonder how natural gas can seep through the land surface? Well, have a look at this picture of natural gas seeping from ground and catching fire –

Source: Daily mail online, UK.

The Chinese discovered Natural Gas around 500 B.C., and they put this to better use – they started using bamboo “pipelines” to transport natural gas that seeped to the surface and to use it to boil sea water to get drinkable water.

However, the first commercialized application of natural gas occurred in the Great Britain. Around 1785, the British used natural gas produced from coal to lighthouses and streets.

By now, you must have guessed that ‘Natural Gas’ is somewhere hidden deep below the earth’s surface. The question is – how and why is natural gas present there?

Millions of years ago, when plants and animals died, the remains were buried in sand and silt. The buried remains mixed further with sand and silt, got buried deeper, and decayed further. Pressure and heat converted these materials into coal, oil, and natural gas. This entire process panned across millions of years. In some places, natural gas moved into large cracks and spaces between layers of overlying rocks, while in other places natural gas just settled on the porous surface of rocks. Natural Gas, in its original form, is colorless, odorless, and tasteless. Now, practically this can be an issue – imagine if natural gas leaks and spreads, there is no way one can identify its presence in the atmosphere, which is a highly hazardous situation. Hence, producer of natural gas adds a substance called ‘mercaptan’, which gives natural gas a pungent, sulfuric odor, making it easier to detect in case of a leak.

The search of natural gas is quite similar to the search for crude oil. Geologists identify land parcels which are likely to contain natural gas. Sometimes, these land parcels are on the surface of the earth and sometimes this can be offshore, deep inside, on the ocean floor. Geologists use the seismic surveys to identify the right place to drill in order to maximize the probability of finding natural gas. If the site seems promising, then an exploratory well is drilled to investigate further. Further, if the economics favor then more wells are drilled and the natural gas is extracted from the ground.

India is the 7th largest producer of natural gas in the world, accounting for nearly 2.5% of the natural gas production in the world. The bulk of the natural gas produced in India is used towards power generation, industrial fuel, and LPG. A large chunk is also used in the fertilizer industry as feedstock.

Needless to say, this discussion on Natural Gas – production and application can get quite vast, but I guess we are good to stop here, considering we are looking at Natural gas from a short-term trading approach.

We will move ahead to discuss the contract specification.

However, no discussion on Natural gas is complete without talking about the ‘Amarant Natural Gas gamble’. J

16.2 – Amaranth Natural gas gamble

Amaranth Advisors, established around 2000, was a US-based multi-strategy hedge fund operating from Greenwich, Connecticut. The fund had its interest in various hedge fund strategies ranging from convertible bonds, merger arbitrage, leveraged assets, and energy trading. By mid-2006, the fund had become a $9 Billion behemoth; this included the profits that were ploughed back to the fund. This positioned Amaranth as one of US’s top-performing hedge fund.

Amaranth’s energy trading desk picked up activity (and a lot of attention) when a star trader named Brain Hunter joined Amaranth’s trading team. Hunter had previously gained a lot of a popularity for his energy trading strategies (mainly natural gas) at Deutsche Bank. Apparently, he made few millions of dollars as annual bonuses. His success continued when he joined Amaranth to head the energy desk – where he traded natural gas for obvious reasons. Hunter ensured profits rolled for Amaranth and its clients, so much so that Amaranth netted close to $2 Billion by April 2006. Both Amaranth’s clients and management were quite seduced by Hunter’s trading skills.

At this stage, I have to mention this – although an international commodity, natural gas trading was highly vulnerable. Any midsized hedge fund could easily corner the market by taking positions in few thousands of contracts. This made Amaranth one the largest hedge funds operating in the natural gas market.

Anyway, here is what happened post-April 2006 –

  1. Hunter noticed a surplus inventory of natural gas in the US, which would drive the price of natural gas lower in the US
  2. Inventory of Natural gas, unlike oil, cannot be easily moved to cater to supply-demand pressures
  3. He also expected a harsh winter (or perhaps a hurricane) to ensue, which quite obviously would exert pressure on the supplies and push the price of Natural gas higher
  4. Apparently, Hunter had profited when hurricane Katrina and Rita had hit the US coastlines in 2005
  5. He set up complex strategies at multiple points across multiple contracts to benefit from his staggered point of view. These were highly leveraged, speculative futures positions
  6. However, nature had a different game plan for Hunter and Amaranth – the possibilities of a hurricane diminished, supplies continued to pour
  7. Bulls started to unwind, triggering the price of Natural Gas below the psychological support of $5.5
  8. This further triggered a panic sell leading to a single day fall of 20% Natural gas’s price
  9. Amaranth was hit quite hard but Hunter’s conviction and reputation were still intact. They now borrowed money and doubled down on their positions
  10. The leverage was as high as 1 to 8, meaning for every 1 USD of their own capital, they had 8 USD in borrowed capital
  11. This didn’t stop natural gas prices to tank further, prices continued to crash, and along with the price Amaranth too crashed
  12. Amaranth was forced to liquidate and take a hit of $6 Billion USD, making it one of the largest hedge fund fiascos in the world.

If there is one key lesson you get to learn from the Amaranth’s episode, then it has to be (yet again) the importance of risk management. Risk management sits above all and has the authority of question every aspect of your trade.

Respect risk and risk respects you back, ignore it and it will show you the corner.

For this reason, we will dedicate the whole of next module to Risk and trading psychology.

For now, let us proceed to discuss the contract specs of Natural Gas.

16.3 – Contract specifications

The contact specs for Natural Gas are as below –

  • Price Quote – Rupee per Million British Thermal Unit (mmBtu)
  • Lot size – 1250 mmBtu
  • Tick size – Rs. 0.10
  • P&L per tick – Rs. 125/-
  • Expiry – 25 th of every month
  • Delivery units – 10,000 mmBtu

Here is the snap quote of the Natural gas expiring in Feb 2020 –

The price, as seen here, is Rs. 217.3 per mmBtu. Therefore the contract value would be –

Lot size * price

= Rs. 271,625/-

The NRML margin is as shown below –

As you can see, the NRML (for overnight positions) margin is Rs. 40,644/-. This makes it about 15% margin for NRML orders (probably one of the highest in the markets) and MIS margin is Rs.20,322/- which makes it about 7% for MIS positions.

The contract introduction and expiry logic is quite straightforward, have a look at the table below –

Every 4 months a new contract is introduced. For example, the January 2020 contract was introduced in Oct 2020, and this contract expires on 25th of Jan 2020.

Here is something that you need to know – although, Natural Gas in an international commodity, its spot price in India is also dependent on how the domestic demand and supply situation pans out. However, the futures contract listed on MCX closely mirrors the Natural gas listed on NYMEX.

Have a look at the image below –

This is the graph of the Natural Gas futures contract on MCX overlaid with NYMEX – quite evidently, both the futures contracts move in unison. Given this, the following events have a significant impact on the natural gas prices on NYMEX and therefore MCX natural gas futures –

  • Natural Gas inventory data – increase in inventory tends to lower the futures price and decrease in inventory data tends to increase the futures price
  • US weather conditions – the US is the biggest natural gas market, so US weather conditions really matter. A harsh winter in the US leads to more natural gas consumption (as people use natural gas to heat homes) and therefore the inventory is consumed rapidly leading to increasing in price.
  • Hurricane in the US – Hurricane besides disrupting the weather conditions also tends to disrupt inventories. Hence, if you see a hurricane approaching the US coast, be prepared to go long in Natural Gas or at least, do not short natural gas contracts
  • The price of Crude oil – Natural gas is not only a cleaner fuel compared to crude but also costs much lower. Historically, the two contracts are highly correlated, although the correlation is not holding up over the recent few months.Check this!

So, next time you are trading natural gas, make sure to check how the sun is shining in the US!

And with this, folks, we will conclude this chapter on Natural Gas and this module on Currencies and commodities. We hope you liked reading this module as much as we enjoyed writing it for you.

Natural Gas Options Explained

Learn about the environmental and economic benefits of natural gas vehicles.

Natural gas vehicles (NGVs) can offer an array of economic and environmental benefits to California residents. These may include the economic benefits of a low-cost, domestic fuel, developing a market for green jobs, improving regional air quality, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, reducing our dependence on petroleum and providing a pathway to a hydrogen economy.

Environmental Benefits

Natural gas vehicles can have an immediate and positive impact on the issues of air quality, U.S. energy security and public health. Here are some key benefits of using natural gas as a transportation fuel.

NGVs are Clean

NGVs are some of the cleanest vehicles in commercial production today, and produce only 5-10 percent of the emissions allowable, even by today’s most stringent standards. NGVs produce 20-30 percent less greenhouse gases than gasoline- or diesel-powered vehicles.

Overall, natural gas is one of the cleanest burning alternative fuels available today. NGVs can reduce nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions and reactive hydrocarbons which form ground-level ozone, the principal ingredient of smog, by as much as 95 percent. NGVs can also reduce emissions of carbon dioxide by as much as 30 percent, carbon monoxide (CO) by 85 percent and carcinogenic particulate emissions by 99 percent.

Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions

The use of compressed natural gas (CNG) in place of gasoline or diesel can help reduce greenhouse gases.

A 2008 “well to wheels” analysis (pdf)* conducted by TIAX, LLC concludes that natural gas offers up to a 30 percent reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for light-duty vehicles, and as much as a 23 percent reduction for medium- to heavy-duty vehicles, when compared with gasoline and diesel. The chart below shows the amount of C02 that has been displaced since 1999 by SoCalGas® customers using vehicles powered by CNG instead of diesel. In 2008 alone, that number was almost 229,000 metric tons of CO2!

Clearly, NGVs present one of the cleanest choices for today and tomorrow.

Biogas: Renewable Reducer of Emissions

Biogas is affordable renewable energy that can also help reduce greenhouse gases. It’s already being used successfully in parts of Europe, and has even been put into limited use in NGVs here in California.* We’re currently researching how biogas could be utilized and distributed to our customers.

Get more details from NGVAmerica* on sequestering greenhouse gases from landfills, animal waste, sewage and other sources via biomethane production. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Alternate Fuels Data Center also provides an overview of biogas benefits.*

Less Noise and Odor

The sound pressure level of a CNG engine is lower than that of a diesel engine, causing 90 percent less noise 1 . This makes NGVs an especially good choice in densely populated areas or for vehicles that operate at night. In addition, refueling with compressed natural gas, versus gasoline or diesel, reduces odorant and evaporative emissions.

Low Contamination Risk

CNG won’t contaminate ground water. CNG refueling station owners don’t have to contend with the threat of leaks from underground tanks, which is a major consideration with liquid fuels.

Pathway to Hydrogen

NGVs represent a proven technology that is available right now. The existing public refueling infrastructure in Southern California is robust and growing all the time.

It’s possible that hydrogen may become the primary fuel for transportation in the U.S. at some point in the future, but use of CNG for transportation now helps create a bridge to a hydrogen future. According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Lab,* “. advancing gaseous fuel technology today can aid the transition to a future transportation network based on hydrogen fuel cells.” Natural gas from existing pipelines is already the leading fuel feedstock in the production of hydrogen.

Economic Benefits

Natural Gas vs. Gasoline and Diesel

Vehicles powered by CNG offer substantial advantages over vehicles powered by gasoline. Historically, CNG has cost significantly less than a gasoline or diesel gallon equivalent at the pump in the SoCalGas service area. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration* tracks historical pricing for gasoline as well as diesel.

Sources: Gasoline prices acquired from annual average of U.S. Government Energy Information Administration’s Weekly California Regular Reformulated Retail gasoline prices. Diesel prices acquired from annual average of U.S. Government Energy Information Administration’s Monthly California No. 2 Diesel Retail Sales. CNG prices acquired from annual average of SoCalGas monthly public CNG station prices.

Lower Annual Fuel Cost than a Gasoline Hybrid 2

Let’s take this $1 per gallon difference and compare a hybrid to an NGV, both driving 15,000 miles per year. Based on an average 41 MPG, the hybrid car would burn almost 366 gallons of gasoline per year. Multiplied by $3 per gallon, the total annual fuel cost would be $1,097. Based on an average 28 MPG, the NGV would burn almost 536 gasoline gallon equivalent gallons of CNG per year. Multiplied by $2 per gallon, the total annual fuel cost would be only $1,071. If you drive more than 15,000 miles per year or if the gasoline and CNG price gap continues to increase, the savings with CNG would be greater.

Cost-Effectiveness

SoCalGas, along with the South Coast Air Quality Management District and the California Natural Gas Vehicle Partnership, commissioned TIAX LLC to develop a study, “Comparative Costs of 2020 Heavy-Duty Diesel and Natural Gas Technologies,” which compared 2020 year heavy-duty commercial diesel and natural gas vehicles. The financial model predicts that the break-even points for CNG for a refuse hauler, transit bus and short- haul heavy-duty truck are $22 barrel, $31 per barrel and $28 per barrel of crude oil, respectively, in 2020 world oil prices. The world oil price per barrel* has been above $40 in most weeks since early 2005.

Significant grants and incentives may be available from a variety of sources to help with the purchase of NGVs or the construction of CNG fueling stations.

High Performance

NGVs often deliver similar horsepower ratings to their diesel and gasoline-powered counterparts. Premium gasoline is 91 octane. Natural gas has an octane rating of approximately 130. This higher octane allows for increased engine compression and combustion efficiency. Because of the clean-burning attributes of natural gas, NGVs generally have longer engine life compared to most gasoline-powered vehicles.

Secure, Domestic Fuel Supply

Since almost all natural gas currently consumed in the U.S. is produced in North America, NGVs help reduce our dependence on foreign oil. One prominent natural gas advocate elaborates on the impact of foreign oil in this 2009 interview* with Fortune.

In 2008, NGVs in the SoCalGas service territory displaced more than 70 million gallons of gasoline. Thanks to new exploration and production technologies, natural gas reserves in the U.S. have increased tremendously in recent years. A 2009 article* in The Wall Street Journal discussed the existence of a 100-year supply in the United States.

America’s Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA) has produced this dynamic new video explaining how companies such as AT&T, Verizon and UPS are using CNG to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.*

Growth of the Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) Market

On a global scale, the market for NGVs is enormous. Currently, there are 15 million vehicles in operation worldwide. Here in the U.S., the market for NGVs is still in the early part of the growth curve.

The chart below shows the growth in CNG consumption by customers in the SoCalGas service area from 2009 to 2020.

**Market Growth includes combined volume from both SoCalGas and SDG&E.

Additional Resources

CNG Now

CNG Now!* is an industry advocacy organization that provides up-to-date news on the CNG market, financial incentives information, legislation and more.

NGVAmerica

NGVAmerica is a national organization representing more than 100 companies that are interested in forwarding the advancement of NGVs and supporting infrastructure. NGVAmerica.org* contains an extensive amount of useful information for policymakers* in one convenient location.

NGVAmerica has published a substantial amount of information which may be helpful for policymakers on topics such as:

Sources

2 Source: Based on a comparison of MPG figures published by American Honda Corporation for the 2009 Honda Insight and the 2009 Honda Civic GX.

Natural Gas May ’20 (NGK20)

Natural Gas Futures Market News and Commentary

May Nymex natural gas (NGK20) on Tuesday closed up +1.21 (+6.99%).

May nat-gas prices on Tuesday rallied sharply for a second day and posted a 3-week high on forecasts for colder U.S. temperatures. Maxar on Tuesday said temperatures may be below normal across most lower 48 U.S. states during April 12-16, with even colder temperatures in the central U.S a week after.

Nat-gas is also seeing support from a rally in stocks and commodity prices on hopes that the spread of the coronavirus may soon peak and allow the global economy to recover.

Nat-gas prices saw support on Monday from Bloomberg’s report that China is buying U.S. nat-gas again, with three LNG tankers carrying cargoes from the U.S. to China. That signaled that China is resuming imports of U.S. LNG for the first since April 2020, in accordance with the phase-one trade agreement where China agreed to step up its purchases of U.S. oil and nat-gas.

U.S. nat-gas demand has weakened due to the pandemic. Read more

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Darren Chu, Cfa – Tradable Patterns Tue Apr 7, 11:24PM CDT

Natural Gas (NG) surged almost 7% yesterday (on the continuous contract), but is likely to see some healthy profittaking going into today’s European.

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Leverage with spread trading

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