Institutional trading in shale gas stocks in the first quarter of 2023 was dominated by large fund managers that adjusted the weightings of their funds after high natural gas commodity prices drove share values higher in 2022.

The large fund managers included FMR Co. Inc., State Street Global Advisors Inc. and BlackRock Inc. Quarterly changes in holdings are derived by S&P Global Market Intelligence from SEC Form 13F filings that detail the portfolios of institutional investors.

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Share buying

Haynesville Shale producer Comstock Resources Inc. had the most net buying by institutions in the quarter. The purchases were a bet that Comstock's Gulf Coast location put it at the front of the line to capitalize on expansions of US LNG export capacity. The buying activity came despite an 11% drop in Comstock's share value in the first quarter.

Appalachian driller Range Resources Corp. continued to attract money from large fund managers such as T. Rowe Price Group Inc. and FMR, also known as Fidelity Investments. The buying was enough to offset the sale of 3 million shares by Channel Islands investment manager Contrarius Investment Management Ltd., which exited its position.

Share selling

Coterra Energy Inc., which drills in northeast Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale, had the most institutional selling of shares. Big fund managers such as Capital Research & Management Co. and J.P. Morgan Asset Management took opposite positions on Coterra in the quarter, with Capital selling nearly 11 million shares and JP Morgan buying 3.6 million.

The largest US gas producer, Appalachian driller EQT Corp., was the second-most sold stock by institutions, again because of book balancing by fund managers. Hedge funds took positions for and against EQT, with New York Mets owner Steven Cohen's Point72 Asset Management LP increasing its stake in EQT to 0.8%, while Fidelity sold 76% of its position in EQT and Contrarius sold 2 million shares to exit its position.

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