Natural Gas Prices on the Rise, Challenging 'Cheap' Label

Getty Images

Those "cheap" natural gas prices everyone keeps talking about? They may not stay that way much longer.

Until late last year, natural gas prices had been on a steep downward curve. Yet on Wednesday, nat gas futures prices hit an intraday high of $4.078, touching their highest level since Sept. 15, 2011.

It's on track for its fourth-consecutive quarterly gain—and its best since the second quarter of 2012, when it rose 32.8 percent. Before then, nat gas had posted three quarters of double-digit losses, bottoming last year at 10-year lows.

Since nat gas traded at $1.90 last April, prices have more than doubled—skyrocketing by 113 percent.

The futures prices for nat gas are currently trading 24 percent above the 200-day moving average, which stands at $3.25.

The trend is significant, given the role that natural gas has played in the U.S. energy comeback.

Natural gas is cheap and abundant, yet consumers have been slow to warm to it as an alternative to conventional gas. Additionally, its price is notoriously volatile: Earlier this year, prices had taken an unexpected downcurve that sent analysts scurrying to revise their forecasts.

Weather may also be playing a role in the unexpected surge. Winter has lingered longer than expected, creating more demand for gas and heating fuel.

In a recent research report, Goldman Sachs forecast natural gas prices to top out at $4.25 within 12 months.