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EX-32.2 - EXHIBIT 32.2 - United States Natural Gas Fund, LPv459144_ex32-2.htm
EX-32.1 - EXHIBIT 32.1 - United States Natural Gas Fund, LPv459144_ex32-1.htm
EX-31.2 - EXHIBIT 31.2 - United States Natural Gas Fund, LPv459144_ex31-2.htm
EX-31.1 - EXHIBIT 31.1 - United States Natural Gas Fund, LPv459144_ex31-1.htm
EX-23.2 - EXHIBIT 23.2 - United States Natural Gas Fund, LPv459144_ex23-2.htm
EX-23.1 - EXHIBIT 23.1 - United States Natural Gas Fund, LPv459144_ex23-1.htm

 

UNITED STATES

SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION

Washington, D.C. 20549

 

FORM 10-K

 

xAnnual report pursuant to Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2016.

 

or

 

¨Transition report pursuant to Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 for the transition period from              to             .

 

Commission file number: 001-33096

 

United States Natural Gas Fund, LP

(Exact name of registrant as specified in its charter)

 

Delaware   20-5576760

(State or other jurisdiction of

incorporation or organization)

 

(I.R.S. Employer

Identification No.)

 

1999 Harrison Street, Suite 1530

Oakland, California 94612

(Address of principal executive offices) (Zip code)

 

(510) 522-9600

(Registrant’s telephone number, including area code)

 

Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:

 

Shares of United States Natural Gas Fund, LP   NYSE Arca, Inc.
(Title of each class)   (Name of exchange on which registered)

 

Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act: None

 

Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act.     ¨   Yes     x    No

 

Indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or Section 15(d) of the Act.     ¨   Yes     x   No

 

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days.     x    Yes     ¨   No

 

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically and posted on its corporate Website, if any, every Interactive Data File required to be submitted and posted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T (§232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit and post such files).  x   Yes     ¨   No

 

Indicate by check mark if disclosure of delinquent filers pursuant to Item 405 of Regulation S-K (§229.405 of this chapter) is not contained herein, and will not be contained, to the best of registrant’s knowledge, in definitive proxy or information statements incorporated by reference in Part III of this Form 10-K or any amendment to this Form 10-K.   x  

 

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, or a smaller reporting company. See the definitions of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer” and “smaller reporting company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.

 

  Large accelerated filer   x   Accelerated filer ¨  
         
  Non-accelerated filer     ¨ Smaller reporting company ¨  
         
  (Do not check if a smaller reporting company)      

 

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act).   ¨   Yes     x   No

 

The aggregate market value of the registrant’s shares held by non-affiliates of the registrant as of June 30, 2016 was: $576,862,353.

 

The registrant had 69,566,476 outstanding shares as of February 21, 2017.

 

DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE:

None.

 

   

 

 

UNITED STATES NATURAL GAS FUND, LP

 

Table of Contents

 

  Page
Part I.  
   
Item 1. Business. 1
   
Item 1A. Risk Factors. 28
   
Item 1B. Unresolved Staff Comments. 39
   
Item 2. Properties. 39
   
Item 3. Legal Proceedings. 39
   
Item 4. Mine Safety Disclosures. 39
   
Part II.
   
Item 5. Market for Registrant’s Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities. 40
   
Item 6. Selected Financial Data. 41
   
Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations. 41
   
Item 7A. Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk. 58
   
Item 8. Financial Statements and Supplementary Data. 61
   
Item 9. Changes in and Disagreements With Accountants on Accounting and Financial Disclosure. 82
   
Item 9A. Controls and Procedures. 82
   
Item 9B. Other Information. 82
   
Part III.
   
Item 10. Directors, Executive Officers and Corporate Governance. 83
   
Item 11. Executive Compensation. 89
   
Item 12. Security Ownership of Certain Beneficial Owners and Management and Related Stockholder Matters. 90
   
Item 13. Certain Relationships and Related Transactions, and Director Independence. 90
   
Item 14. Principal Accountant Fees and Services. 90
   
Part IV.
   
Item 15. Exhibits and Financial Statement Schedules. 91
   
Exhibit Index. 91
   
Signatures. 93

 

   

 

 

Part I

 

Item 1. Business.

 

What is UNG?

 

The United States Natural Gas Fund, LP (“UNG”) is a Delaware limited partnership organized on September 11, 2006. UNG maintains its main business office at 1999 Harrison Street, Suite 1530, Oakland, California 94612. UNG is a commodity pool that issues limited partnership interests (“shares”) traded on the NYSE Arca, Inc. (the “NYSE Arca”). It operates pursuant to the terms of the Fourth Amended and Restated Agreement of Limited Partnership dated as of March 1, 2013 (as amended from time to time, the “LP Agreement”), which grants full management control to its general partner, United States Commodity Funds LLC (“USCF”).

 

The investment objective of UNG is for the daily changes in percentage terms of its shares’ per share net asset value (“NAV”) to reflect the daily changes in percentage terms of the spot price of natural gas delivered at the Henry Hub, Louisiana, as measured by the daily changes in the price of the futures contract for natural gas traded on the New York Mercantile Exchange (the “NYMEX”), that is the near month contract to expire, except when the near month contract is within two weeks of expiration, in which case it will be measured by the futures contract that is the next month contract to expire, less UNG’s expenses. It is not the intent of UNG to be operated in a fashion such that the per share NAV will equal, in dollar terms, the spot price of natural gas or any particular futures contract based on natural gas nor is USO’s investment objective for the percentage change in its per share NAV to reflect the percentage change of the price of any particular futures contract as measured over a time period greater than one day. USCF believes that it is not practical to manage the portfolio to achieve such an investment goal when investing in Futures Contracts (as defined below) and Other Natural Gas-Related Investments (as defined below). UNG’s shares began trading on April 18, 2007. USCF is the general partner of UNG and is responsible for the management of UNG.

 

Who is USCF?

 

USCF is a single member limited liability company that was formed in the state of Delaware on May 10, 2005. USCF maintains its main business office at 1999 Harrison Street, Suite 1530, Oakland, California 94612. USCF is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Wainwright Holdings, Inc., a Delaware corporation (“Wainwright”), which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Concierge Technologies, Inc. (publicly traded under the ticker CNCG (“Concierge”). Mr. Nicholas Gerber (discussed below) along with certain other family members and certain other shareholders, owns the majority of the shares in Concierge. Wainwright is a holding company that currently holds both USCF, as well as USCF Advisers LLC, an investment adviser registered under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940, as amended. USCF Advisers LLC serves as the investment adviser for the Stock Split Index Fund and USCF Restaurant Leaders Fund, each a series of the USCF ETF Trust as well as the USCF Commodity Strategy Fund, a series of the USCF Mutual Funds Trust. USCF ETF Trust and USCF Mutual Funds Trust are registered under the Investment Company Act of 1940, as amended (the “1940 Act”). The Board of Trustees for the USCF ETF Trust and USCF Mutual Funds Trust consist of different independent trustees than those independent directors who serve on the Board of Directors of USCF. USCF is a member of the National Futures Association (the “NFA”) and registered as a commodity pool operator (“CPO”) with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (the “CFTC”) on December 1, 2005 and as a Swaps Firm on August 8, 2013.

 

USCF also serves as general partner or sponsor of the United States Oil Fund, LP (“USO”), the United States 12 Month Oil Fund, LP (“USL”), the United States Gasoline Fund, LP (“UGA”), the United States Diesel-Heating Oil Fund, LP (“UHN”), the United States Short Oil Fund, LP (“DNO”), the United States 12 Month Natural Gas Fund, LP (“UNL”), the United States Brent Oil Fund, LP (“BNO”), the United States Commodity Index Fund (“USCI”), the United States Copper Index Fund (“CPER”), the United States Agriculture Index Fund (“USAG”) and the USCF Canadian Crude Oil Index Fund (“UCCO”). UCCO is currently in registration and has not commenced operations.

 

USO, USL, UGA, UHN, DNO, UNL, BNO, USCI, CPER and USAG are actively operating funds and all are listed on the NYSE Arca and referred to collectively herein as the “Related Public Funds.”

 

 1 

 

 

In addition, USCF is the sponsor of the USCF Funds Trust, a Delaware Statutory Trust, and each of its series, the REX S&P MLP Fund, the REX S&P MLP Inverse Fund, the United States 3X Oil Fund and the United States 3X Short Oil Fund, all of which are funds that are currently in registration and have not commenced operations. The funds that are series of the USCF Funds Trust (the “REX Funds”) are not included in the Related Public Funds.

 

The Related Public Funds are subject to reporting requirements under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (“Exchange Act”). For more information about each of the Related Public Funds, investors in UNG may call 1.800.920.0259 or visit www.uscfinvestments.com or the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (“SEC”) website at www.sec.gov.

  

USCF, as the sponsor of United States Commodity Index Funds Trust (the “Trust”) and its series United States Metal Index Fund (“USMI”), terminated USMI effective March 18, 2015 and USMI was also delisted from NYSE Arca. On March 24, 2015, USMI liquidated all its assets and distributed cash pro rata to all remaining shareholder as of such date.

 

USCF is required to evaluate the credit risk of UNG to the futures commission merchant (“FCM”), oversee the purchase and sale of UNG’s shares by certain authorized purchasers (“Authorized Participants”), review daily positions and margin requirements of UNG and manage UNG’s investments. USCF also pays the fees of ALPS Distributors, Inc. (“ALPS Distributors”), which serves as the marketing agent for UNG (the “Marketing Agent”), and Brown Brothers Harriman & Co. (“BBH&Co.”), which serves as the administrator (the “Administrator”) and the custodian (the “Custodian”) for UNG.

 

Limited partners have no right to elect USCF as the general partner on an annual or any other continuing basis. If USCF voluntarily withdraws as general partner, however, the holders of a majority of UNG’s outstanding shares (excluding for purposes of such determination shares owned, if any, by the withdrawing USCF and its affiliates) may elect its successor. USCF may not be removed as general partner except upon approval by the affirmative vote of the holders of at least 66 and 2/3 percent of UNG’s outstanding shares (excluding shares owned, if any, by USCF and its affiliates), subject to the satisfaction of certain conditions set forth in the LP Agreement.

 

UNG has no executive officers or employees. Pursuant to the terms of the LP Agreement, UNG’s affairs are managed by USCF.

 

The business and affairs of USCF are managed by a board of directors (the “Board”), which is comprised of four management directors (the “Management Directors”), each of whom are also executive officers or employees of USCF, and three independent directors who meet the independent director requirements established by the NYSE Arca Equities Rules and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. The Management Directors have the authority to manage USCF pursuant to the terms of the Sixth Amended and Restated Limited Liability Company Agreement of USCF, dated as of May 15, 2015 (as amended from time to time, the “LLC Agreement”). Through its Management Directors, USCF manages the day-to-day operations of UNG. The Board has an audit committee which is made up of the three independent directors (Gordon L. Ellis, Malcolm R. Fobes III and Peter M. Robinson). For additional information relating to the audit committee, please see “Item 10. Directors, Executive Officers and Corporate Governance – Audit Committee” in this annual report on Form 10-K.

 

How Does UNG Operate?

 

An investment in the shares provides a means for diversifying an investor’s portfolio or hedging exposure to changes in natural gas prices. An investment in the shares allows both retail and institutional investors to easily gain this exposure to the natural gas market in a transparent, cost-effective manner.

 

The net assets of UNG consist primarily of investments in futures contracts for natural gas, crude oil, diesel-heating oil, gasoline, and other petroleum-based fuels that are traded on the NYMEX, ICE Futures or other U.S. and foreign exchanges (collectively, “Futures Contracts”) and, to a lesser extent, in order to comply with regulatory requirements or in view of market conditions, Other Natural Gas-Related (as defined below) investments such as cash-settled options on Futures Contracts, forward contracts for natural gas, cleared swap contracts and non-exchange traded over-the-counter (“OTC”) transactions that are based on the price of natural gas, oil and other petroleum-based fuels, Futures Contracts and indices based on the foregoing (collectively, “Other Natural Gas-Related Investments”). Market conditions that USCF currently anticipates could cause UNG to invest in Other Natural Gas-Related Investments include those allowing UNG to obtain greater liquidity or to execute transactions with more favorable pricing. For convenience and unless otherwise specified, Futures Contracts and Other Natural Gas-Related Investments collectively are referred to as “Natural Gas Interests” in this annual report on Form 10-K. UNG invests substantially the entire amount of its assets in Futures Contracts while supporting such investments by holding the amounts of its margin, collateral and other requirements relating to these obligations in short-term obligations of the United States of two years or less (“Treasuries”), cash and cash equivalents. The daily holdings of UNG are available on UNG’s website at www.uscfinvestments.com.

 

 2 

 

 

The investment objective of UNG is for the daily changes in percentage terms of its shares’ per share NAV to reflect the daily changes in percentage terms of the price of natural gas delivered at the Henry Hub, Louisiana as measured by the daily changes in the price of a specified short-term futures contract on natural gas traded on the NYMEX that is the near month contract to expire, except when the near month contract is within two weeks of expiration, in which case it will be measured by the futures contract that is the next month contract to expire (the “Benchmark Futures Contract”), plus interest earned on UNG’s collateral holdings, less UNG’s expenses. UNG’s investment objective is not for its NAV or market price of shares to equal, in dollar terms, the spot price of natural gas or any particular futures contract based on natural gas nor is UNG’s investment objective for the percentage change in its NAV to reflect the percentage change of the price of any particular futures contract as measured over a time period greater than one day. UNG may invest in interests other than the Benchmark Futures Contract to comply with accountability levels and position limits. For a detailed discussion of accountability levels and position limits, see “Item 1. Business – What are Futures Contracts?” below in this annual report on Form 10-K.

 

USCF employs a “neutral” investment strategy in order to track changes in the price of the Benchmark Futures Contract regardless of whether the price goes up or goes down. UNG’s “neutral” investment strategy is designed to permit investors generally to purchase and sell UNG’s shares for the purpose of investing indirectly in natural gas in a cost-effective manner, and/or to permit participants in the natural gas or other industries to hedge the risk of losses in their natural gas-related transactions. Accordingly, depending on the investment objective of an individual investor, the risks generally associated with investing in natural gas and/or the risks involved in hedging may exist. In addition, an investment in UNG involves the risk that the daily changes in the price of UNG’s shares, in percentage terms, will not accurately track the daily changes in the Benchmark Futures Contract, in percentage terms, and that daily changes in the Benchmark Futures Contract, in percentage terms, will not closely correlate with daily changes in the spot prices of natural gas, in percentage terms.

 

The Benchmark Futures Contract is changed from the near month contract to the next month contract over a four-day period. Each month, the Benchmark Futures Contract changes starting at the end of the day on the date two weeks prior to expiration of the near month contract for that month. During the first three days of the period, the applicable value of the Benchmark Futures Contract is based on a combination of the near month contract and the next month contract as follows: (1) day 1 consists of 75% of the then near month contract’s price plus 25% of the price of the next month contract, divided by 75% of the near month contract’s prior day’s price plus 25% of the price of the next month contract, (2) day 2 consists of 50% of the then near month contract’s price plus 50% of the price of the next month contract, divided by 50% of the near month contract’s prior day’s price plus 50% of the price of the next month contract, and (3) day 3 consists of 25% of the then near month contract’s price plus 75% of the price of the next month contract, divided by 25% of the near month contract’s prior day’s price plus 75% of the price of the next month contract. On day 4, the Benchmark Futures Contract is the next month contract to expire at that time and that contract remains the Benchmark Futures Contract until the beginning of the following month’s change in the Benchmark Futures Contract over a four-day period.

 

On each day during the four-day period, USCF anticipates it will “roll” UNG’s positions in Natural Gas Interests by closing, or selling, a percentage of UNG’s positions in Natural Gas Interests and reinvesting the proceeds from closing those positions in new Natural Gas Interests that reflect the change in the Benchmark Futures Contract.

 

The anticipated dates that the monthly four-day roll period will commence are posted on UNG’s website at www.uscfinvestments.com, and are subject to change without notice.

 

UNG’s total portfolio composition is disclosed on its website each business day that the NYSE Arca is open for trading. The website disclosure of portfolio holdings is made daily and includes, as applicable, the name and value of each Natural Gas Interest, the specific types of Other Natural Gas-Related Investments and characteristics of such Other Natural Gas-Related Investments, the name and value of each Treasury and cash equivalent, and the amount of cash held in UNG’s portfolio. UNG’s website is publicly accessible at no charge. UNG’s assets used for margin and collateral are held in segregated accounts pursuant to the Commodity Exchange Act (the “CEA”) and CFTC regulations.

 

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The shares issued by UNG may only be purchased by Authorized Participants and only in blocks of 100,000 shares called Creation Baskets. The amount of the purchase payment for a Creation Basket is equal to the aggregate NAV of the shares in the Creation Basket. Similarly, only Authorized Participants may redeem shares and only in blocks of 100,000 shares called Redemption Baskets. The amount of the redemption proceeds for a Redemption Basket is equal to the aggregate NAV of shares in the Redemption Basket. The purchase price for Creation Baskets and the redemption price for Redemption Baskets are the actual NAV calculated at the end of the business day when a request for a purchase or redemption is received by UNG. The NYSE Arca publishes an approximate per share NAV intra-day based on the prior day’s per share NAV and the current price of the Benchmark Futures Contract, but the price of Creation Baskets and Redemption Baskets is determined based on the actual per share NAV calculated at the end of the day.

 

While UNG issues shares only in Creation Baskets, shares are listed on the NYSE Arca and investors may purchase and sell shares at market prices like any listed security.

 

What is UNG’s Investment Strategy?

 

In managing UNG’s assets, USCF does not use a technical trading system that issues buy and sell orders. USCF instead employs a quantitative methodology whereby each time a Creation Basket is sold, USCF purchases Natural Gas Interests, such as the Benchmark Futures Contract, that have an aggregate market value that approximates the amount of Treasuries and/or cash received upon the issuance of the Creation Basket.

 

By remaining invested as fully as possible in Futures Contracts or Other Natural Gas-Related Investments, USCF believes that the daily changes in percentage terms in UNG’s per share NAV will continue to closely track the daily changes in percentage terms in the price of the Benchmark Futures Contract. USCF believes that certain arbitrage opportunities result in the price of the shares traded on the NYSE Arca closely tracking the per share NAV of UNG. Additionally, Futures Contracts traded on the NYMEX have closely tracked the spot price of natural gas. Based on these expected interrelationships, USCF believes that the changes in the price of UNG’s shares traded on the NYSE Arca have closely tracked and will continue to closely track on a daily basis the changes in the spot price of natural gas, on a percentage basis. For performance data relating to UNG’s ability to track its benchmark, see “Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations — Tracking UNG’s Benchmark” in this annual report on Form 10-K.

 

USCF endeavors to place UNG’s trades in Futures Contracts and Other Natural Gas-Related Investments and otherwise manage UNG’s investments so that “A” will be within plus/minus ten percent (10%) of “B,” where: 

 

  A is the average daily change in UNG’s per share NAV for any period of 30 successive valuation days; i.e., any NYSE Arca trading day as of which UNG calculates its per share NAV; and

 

  B is the average daily percentage change in the price of the Benchmark Futures Contract over the same period.

 

USCF believes that market arbitrage opportunities will cause the daily changes in UNG’s share price on the NYSE Arca to closely track the daily changes in UNG’s per share NAV on a percentage basis. USCF further believes that the net effect of these two expected relationships and the relationships described above between UNG’s per share NAV and the Benchmark Futures Contract will be that the daily changes in the price of UNG’s shares on the NYSE Arca on a percentage basis will closely track the daily changes in the spot price of a barrel of natural gas on a percentage basis, plus interest earned on UNG’s collateral holdings, less UNG’s expenses. For performance data relating to UNG’s ability to track its benchmark, see “Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations – Tracking UNG’s Benchmark” in this annual report on Form 10-K.

 

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The specific Futures Contracts purchased depend on various factors, including a judgment by USCF as to the appropriate diversification of UNG’s investments in futures contracts with respect to the month of expiration, and the prevailing price volatility of particular contracts. While USCF has made significant investments in NYMEX Futures Contracts, for various reasons, including the ability to enter into the precise amount of exposure to the natural gas market, position limits or other regulatory requirements limiting UNG’s holdings, and market conditions, it may invest in Futures Contracts traded on other exchanges or invest in Other Natural Gas-Related Investments. To the extent that UNG invests in Other Natural Gas-Related Investments, it would prioritize investments in contracts and instruments that are economically equivalent to the Benchmark Futures Contract, including cleared swaps that satisfy such criteria, and then, to a lesser extent, it would invest in other types of cleared swaps and other contracts, instruments and non-cleared swaps, such as swaps in the OTC market. If UNG is required by law or regulation, or by one of its regulators, including a futures exchange, to reduce its position in the Futures Contracts to the applicable position limit or to a specified accountability level or if market conditions dictate it would be more appropriate to invest in Other Natural Gas-Related Investments, a substantial portion of UNG’s assets could be invested in accordance with such priority in Other Natural Gas-Related Investments that are intended to replicate the return on the Benchmark Futures Contract. As UNG’s assets reach higher levels, it is more likely to exceed position limits, accountability levels or other regulatory limits and, as a result, it is more likely that it will invest in accordance with such priority in Other Natural Gas-Related Investments at such higher levels. In addition, market conditions that USCF currently anticipates could cause UNG to invest in Other Natural Gas-Related Investments include those allowing UNG to obtain greater liquidity or to execute transactions with more favorable pricing. See “Item 1. Business – Regulation” in this annual report on Form 10-K for a discussion of the potential impact of regulation on UNG’s ability to invest in OTC transactions and cleared swaps.

 

USCF may not be able to fully invest UNG’s assets in the Futures Contract having an aggregate notional amount exactly equal to UNG’s NAV. For example, as standardized contracts, the Futures Contracts are for a specified amount of a particular commodity, and UNG’s NAV and the proceeds from the sale of a Creation Basket are unlikely to be an exact multiple of the amounts of those contracts. As a result, in such circumstances, UNG may be better able to achieve the exact amount of exposure to changes in price of the Benchmark Futures Contract through the use of Other Natural Gas-Related Investments, such as OTC contracts that have better correlation with changes in price of the Benchmark Futures Contract.

 

UNG anticipates that to the extent it invests in Futures Contracts other than contracts on natural gas (such as futures contracts for light, sweet crude oil, diesel-heating oil and other petroleum-based fuels) and Other Natural Gas-Related Investments, it will enter into various non-exchange-traded derivative contracts to hedge the short-term price movements of such Futures Contracts and Other Natural Gas-Related Investments against the current Benchmark Futures Contract.

 

USCF does not anticipate letting UNG’s Futures Contracts expire and taking delivery of the underlying commodity. Instead, USCF closes existing positions, e.g., when it changes the Benchmark Futures Contract or Other Natural Gas-Related Investments or it otherwise determines it would be appropriate to do so and reinvests the proceeds in new Futures Contracts or Other Natural Gas-Related Investments. Positions may also be closed out to meet orders for Redemption Baskets and in such case proceeds for such baskets will not be reinvested.

 

What is the Natural Gas Market and the Petroleum-Based Fuel Market?

 

Natural Gas. Natural gas accounts for almost a quarter of U.S. energy consumption. The price of natural gas is established by the supply and demand conditions in the North American market, and more particularly, in the main refining center of the U.S. Gulf Coast. The natural gas market essentially constitutes an auction, where the highest bidder wins the supply. When markets are “strong” (i.e., when demand is high and/or supply is low), the bidder must be willing to pay a higher premium to capture the supply. When markets are “weak” (i.e., when demand is low and/or supply is high), a bidder may choose not to outbid competitors, waiting instead for later, possibly lower priced, supplies. Demand for natural gas by consumers, as well as agricultural, manufacturing and transportation industries, determines overall demand for natural gas. Since the precursors of product demand are linked to economic activity, natural gas demand will tend to reflect economic conditions. However, other factors such as weather significantly influence natural gas demand.

 

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The NYMEX is the world’s largest physical commodity futures exchange and the dominant market for the trading of energy and precious metals. The Benchmark Futures Contract trades in units of 10,000 MMBtu and is based on delivery at the Henry Hub in Louisiana, the nexus of 16 intra- and interstate natural gas pipeline systems that draw supplies from the region’s prolific gas deposits. The pipelines serve markets throughout the U.S. East Coast, the Gulf Coast, the Midwest, and up to the Canadian border. Because of the volatility of natural gas prices, a vigorous basis market has developed in the pricing relationships between the Henry Hub and other important natural gas market centers in the continental United States and Canada. The NYMEX makes available for trading a series of basis swap futures contracts that are quoted as price differentials between approximately 30 natural gas pricing points and the Henry Hub. The basis contracts trade in units of 2,500 MMBtu on the New York Mercantile Exchange ClearPort ® trading platform. The New York Mercantile Exchange ClearPort ® is an electronic trading platform through which a slate of energy futures contracts are available for competitive trading. Transactions can also be consummated off-NYMEX and submitted to the NYMEX for clearing via the NYMEX ClearPort ® clearing website as an exchange of futures for physicals or an exchange of futures for swaps transactions.

 

Light, Sweet Crude Oil. Light, sweet crudes are preferred by refiners because of their low sulfur content and relatively high yields of high-value products such as gasoline, diesel fuel, diesel-heating oil, and jet fuel. The price of light, sweet crude oil has historically exhibited periods of significant volatility.

 

Demand for petroleum products by consumers, as well as agricultural, manufacturing and transportation industries, determines demand for crude oil by refiners. Since the precursors of product demand are linked to economic activity, crude oil demand will tend to reflect economic conditions. However, other factors such as weather also influence product and crude oil demand.

 

Crude oil supply is determined by both economic and political factors. Oil prices (along with drilling costs, availability of attractive prospects for drilling, taxes and technology, among other factors) determine exploration and development spending, which influence output capacity with a lag. In the short run, production decisions by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (“OPEC”) also affect supply and prices. Oil export embargoes and the current conflicts in the Middle East represent other routes through which political developments move the market. It is not possible to predict the aggregate effect of all or any combination of these factors.

 

Diesel-Heating Oil. Diesel-heating oil, also known as No. 2 fuel oil, accounts for 25% of the yield of a barrel of crude oil, the second largest “cut” from oil after gasoline. The diesel-heating Oil Futures Contract listed and traded on the NYMEX trades in units of 42,000 gallons (1,000 barrels) and is based on delivery in the New York harbor, the principal cash market center. The ICE Futures also offers a diesel-heating Oil Futures Contract which trades in units of 42,000 U.S. gallons (1,000 barrels). The diesel-heating Oil Futures Contract is cash-settled against the prevailing market price for diesel-heating oil delivered to the New York Harbor.

 

Gasoline. Gasoline is the largest single volume refined product sold in the U.S. and accounts for almost half of national oil consumption. The gasoline futures contract listed and traded on the NYMEX trades in units of 42,000 gallons (1,000 barrels) and is based on delivery at petroleum products terminals in the New York harbor, the major East Coast trading center for imports and domestic shipments from refineries in the New York harbor area or from the Gulf Coast refining centers. The price of gasoline has historically been volatile.

 

What are Futures Contracts?

 

Futures contracts are agreements between two parties. One party agrees to buy a commodity such as natural gas from the other party at a later date at a price and quantity agreed upon when the contract is made. Futures Contracts are traded on futures exchanges, including the NYMEX. For example, the Benchmark Futures Contract is traded on the NYMEX in units of 10,000 MMBtu. Futures Contracts traded on the NYMEX are priced by floor brokers and other exchange members both through an “open outcry” of offers to purchase or sell the contracts and through an electronic, screen-based system that determines the price by matching electronically offers to purchase and sell. Additional risks of investing in Futures Contracts are included in “Item 1A. Risk Factors” in this annual report on Form 10-K.

 

Accountability Levels, Position Limits and Price Fluctuation Limits. Designated contract markets, such as the NYMEX and ICE Futures have established accountability levels and position limits on the maximum net long or net short futures contracts in commodity interests that any person or group of persons under common trading control (other than as a hedge, which an investment by UNG is not) may hold, own or control. These levels and position limits apply to the futures contracts that UNG invests in to meet its investment objective. In addition to accountability levels and position limits, the NYMEX and ICE Futures also set daily price limits on futures contracts. The daily price fluctuation limit establishes the maximum amount that the price of a futures contract may vary either up or down from the previous day’s settlement price. Once the daily price fluctuation limit has been reached in a particular futures contract, no trades may be made at a price beyond that limit.

 

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The accountability levels for the Benchmark Futures Contract and other Futures Contracts traded on U.S.-based futures exchanges, such as the NYMEX, are not a fixed ceiling, but rather a threshold above which the NYMEX may exercise greater scrutiny and control over an investor’s positions. The current accountability level for investments for any one-month in the Benchmark Futures Contract is 6,000 contracts. In addition, the NYMEX imposes an accountability level for all months of 12,000 net futures contracts for natural gas. In addition, the ICE Futures maintains the same accountability levels, position limits and monitoring authority for its natural gas contract as the NYMEX. If UNG and the Related Public Funds exceed these accountability levels for investments in the futures contracts for natural gas, the NYMEX and ICE Futures will monitor such exposure and may ask for further information on their activities, including the total size of all positions, investment and trading strategy, and the extent of liquidity resources of UNG and the Related Public Funds. If deemed necessary by the NYMEX and/or ICE Futures, UNG could be ordered to reduce its aggregate net futures contracts back to the accountability level. As of December 31, 2016, UNG held 9,442 NYMEX Natural Gas Futures NG contracts. As of December 31, 2016, UNG held 20,000 Natural Gas Futures LD1 H Contracts traded on the ICE Futures. UNG exceeded accountability levels of the NYMEX during the year ended December 31, 2016, when it held a maximum of 25,828 Natural Gas Futures NG contracts, exceeding both the “any” and “all” month limits. No action was taken by the NYMEX and UNG did not reduce the number of Futures Contracts held as a result. UNG exceeded accountability levels of ICE Futures during the year ended December 31, 2016, when it held a maximum of 20,000 natural gas Futures LD1 H Contracts, exceeding the “any” month limit. No action was taken by ICE Futures and UNG did not reduce the number of cleared swap contracts held as a result.

 

Position limits differ from accountability levels in that they represent fixed limits on the maximum number of futures contracts that any person may hold and cannot allow such limits to be exceeded without express CFTC authority to do so. In addition to accountability levels and position limits that may apply at any time, the NYMEX and ICE Futures impose position limits on contracts held in the last few days of trading in the near month contract to expire. It is unlikely that UNG will run up against such position limits because UNG’s investment strategy is to close out its positions and “roll” from the near month contract to expire to the next month contract during a four-day period beginning two weeks from expiration of the contract. For the year ended December 31, 2016, UNG did not exceed position limits imposed by the NYMEX and ICE Futures.

 

The CFTC has proposed to adopt limits on speculative positions in 25 physical commodity futures and option contracts and swaps that are economically equivalent to such contracts in the agriculture, energy and metals markets (the “Position Limit Rules”). The Position Limit Rules would, among other things: identify which contracts are subject to speculative position limits; set thresholds that restrict the size of speculative positions that a person may hold in the spot month, other individual months, and all months combined; create an exemption for positions that constitute bona fide hedging transactions; impose responsibilities on designated contract markets (“DCMs”) and swap execution facilities (“SEFs”) to establish position limits or, in some cases, position accountability rules; and apply to both futures and swaps across four relevant venues: OTC, DCMs, SEFs as well as certain non-U.S. located platforms. The CFTC’s first attempt at finalizing the Position Limit Rules, in 2011, was successfully challenged by market participants in 2012 and, since then, the CFTC has re-proposed them and solicited comments from market participants multiple times. At this time, it is unclear how the Position Limit Rules may affect UNG, but the effect may be substantial and adverse. By way of example, the Position Limit Rules may negatively impact the ability of UNG to meet its investment objectives through limits that may inhibit USCF’s ability to sell additional Creation Baskets of UNG. See “The Commodity Interest Markets- Regulation” in this annual report on Form 10-K for additional information.

 

Until such time as the Position Limit Rules are adopted, the regulatory architecture in effect prior to the adoption of the Position Limit Rules will govern transactions in commodities and related. Under that system, the CFTC enforces federal limits on speculation in nine agricultural products (e.g., corn, wheat and soy), while futures exchanges establish and enforce position limits and accountability levels for other agricultural products and certain energy products (e.g., oil and natural gas). As a result, UNG may be limited with respect to the size of its investments in any commodities subject to these limits.

 

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Under existing and recently adopted CFTC regulations, for the purpose of position limits, a market participant is generally required, subject to certain narrow exceptions, to aggregate all positions for which that participant controls the trading decisions with all positions for which that participant has a 10 percent or greater ownership interest in an account or position, as well as the positions of two or more persons acting pursuant to an express or implied agreement or understanding with that market participant (the “Aggregation Rules”). The Aggregation Rules will also apply with respect to the Position Limit Rules if and when such Position Limit Rules are adopted.

 

Price Volatility. The price volatility of Futures Contracts generally has been historically greater than that for traditional securities such as stocks and bonds. Price volatility often is greater day-to-day as opposed to intra-day. Futures Contracts tend to be more volatile than stocks and bonds because price movements for natural gas are more currently and directly influenced by economic factors for which current data is available and are traded by natural gas futures traders throughout the day. Because UNG invests a significant portion of its assets in Futures Contracts, the assets of UNG, and therefore the prices of UNG shares, may be subject to greater volatility than traditional securities.

 

Marking-to-Market Futures Positions. Futures Contracts are marked to market at the end of each trading day and the margin required with respect to such contracts is adjusted accordingly. This process of marking-to-market is designed to prevent losses from accumulating in any futures account. Therefore, if UNG’s futures positions have declined in value, UNG may be required to post “variation margin” to cover this decline. Alternatively, if UNG’s futures positions have increased in value, this increase will be credited to UNG’s account.

 

Why Does UNG Purchase and Sell Futures Contracts?

 

UNG’s investment objective is for the daily changes in percentage terms of its shares’ per share NAV to reflect the daily changes in percentage terms of the Benchmark Futures Contract, less UNG’s expenses. UNG invests primarily in Futures Contracts. UNG seeks to have its aggregate NAV approximate at all times the aggregate market value of the Futures Contracts (or Other Natural Gas-Related Investments) it holds.

 

In connection with investing in Futures Contracts and Other Natural Gas-Related Investments, UNG holds Treasuries, cash and/or cash equivalents that serve as segregated assets supporting UNG’s positions in Futures Contracts and Other Natural Gas-Related Investments. For example, the purchase of a Futures Contract with a stated value of $10 million would not require UNG to pay $10 million upon entering into the contract; rather, only a margin deposit, generally of 5% to 30% of the stated value of the Futures Contract, would be required. To secure its Futures Contract obligations, UNG would deposit the required margin with the FCM and would separately hold, through its Custodian, Treasuries, cash and/or cash equivalents in an amount equal to the balance of the current market value of the contract, which at the contract’s inception would be $10 million minus the amount of the margin deposit, or $9.0 million (assuming a 10% margin).

 

As a result of the foregoing, typically 5% to 30% of UNG’s assets are held as margin in segregated accounts with an FCM. In addition to the Treasuries and cash it posts with the FCM for the Futures Contracts it owns, UNG may hold, through the Custodian, Treasuries, cash and/or cash equivalents that can be posted as additional margin or as other collateral to support its OTC contracts. UNG earns income from the Treasuries and/or cash equivalents that it purchases, and on the cash it holds through the Custodian or FCM. UNG anticipates that the earned income will increase the NAV and limited partners’ capital contribution accounts. UNG reinvests the earned income, holds it in cash, or uses it to pay its expenses. If UNG reinvests the earned income, it makes investments that are consistent with its investment objective.

 

What are the Trading Policies of UNG?

 

Liquidity

 

UNG invests only in Futures Contracts and Other Natural Gas-Related Investments that, in the opinion of USCF, are traded in sufficient volume to permit the ready taking and liquidation of positions in these financial interests and Other Natural Gas-Related Investments that, in the opinion of USCF, may be readily liquidated with the original counterparty or through a third party assuming the position of UNG.

 

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Spot Commodities

 

While the Futures Contracts traded can be physically settled, UNG does not intend to take or make physical delivery. UNG may from time to time trade in Other Natural Gas-Related Investments, including contracts based on the spot price of natural gas.

 

Leverage

 

USCF endeavors to have the value of UNG’s Treasuries, cash and cash equivalents, whether held by UNG or posted as margin or other collateral, at all times approximate the aggregate market value of its obligations under its Futures Contracts and Other Natural Gas-Related Investments. Commodity pools’ trading positions in futures contracts or other related investments are typically required to be secured by the deposit of margin funds that represent only a small percentage of a futures contract’s (or other commodity interest’s) entire market value. While USCF has not and does not intend to leverage UNG’s assets, it is not prohibited from doing so under the LP Agreement.

 

Borrowings

 

Borrowings are not used by UNG, unless UNG is required to borrow money in the event of physical delivery, if UNG trades in cash commodities, or for short-term needs created by unexpected redemptions.

 

OTC Derivatives (Including Spreads and Straddles)

 

In addition to Futures Contracts, there are also a number of listed options on the Futures Contracts on the principal futures exchanges. These contracts offer investors and hedgers another set of financial vehicles to use in managing exposure to the natural gas market. Consequently, UNG may purchase options on Futures Contracts on these exchanges in pursuing its investment objective.

 

In addition to the Futures Contracts and options on the Futures Contracts, there also exists an active non-exchange-traded market in derivatives tied to natural gas. These derivatives transactions (also known as OTC contracts) are usually entered into between two parties in private contracts. Unlike most of the exchange-traded Futures Contracts or exchange-traded options on the Futures Contracts, each party to such contract bears the credit risk of the other party, i.e., the risk that the other party may not be able to perform its obligations under its contract. To reduce the credit risk that arises in connection with such contracts, UNG will generally enter into an agreement with each counterparty based on the Master Agreement published by the International Swaps and Derivatives Association, Inc. (“ISDA”) that provides for the netting of its overall exposure to its counterparty.

 

USCF assesses or reviews, as appropriate, the creditworthiness of each potential or existing counterparty to an OTC contract pursuant to guidelines approved by USCF’s Board.

 

UNG may enter into certain transactions where an OTC component is exchanged for a corresponding futures contract (“Exchange for Related Position” or “EFRP” transactions). In the most common type of EFRP transaction entered into by UNG, the OTC component is the purchase or sale of one or more baskets of UNG shares. These EFRP transactions may expose UNG to counterparty risk during the interim period between the execution of the OTC component and the exchange for a corresponding futures contract. Generally, the counterparty risk from the EFRP transaction will exist only on the day of execution.

 

UNG may employ spreads or straddles in its trading to mitigate the differences in its investment portfolio and its goal of tracking the price of the Benchmark Futures Contract. UNG would use a spread when it chooses to take simultaneous long and short positions in futures written on the same underlying asset, but with different delivery months.

 

During the reporting period of this annual report on Form 10-K, UNG limited its derivatives activities to Natural Gas Contracts and EFRP transactions.

 

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Pyramiding

 

UNG has not and will not employ the technique, commonly known as pyramiding, in which the speculator uses unrealized profits on existing positions as variation margin for the purchase or sale of additional positions in the same or another commodity interest.

 

Who are the Service Providers?

 

In its capacity as the Custodian for UNG, BBH&Co. holds UNG’s Treasuries, cash and/or cash equivalents pursuant to a custodial agreement. BBH&Co. is also the registrar and transfer agent for the shares. In addition, in its capacity as Administrator for UNG, BBH&Co. performs certain administrative and accounting services for UNG and prepares certain SEC, NFA and CFTC reports on behalf of UNG. USCF pays BBH&Co.’s fees for these services.

 

BBH&Co.’s principal business address is 50 Post Office Square, Boston, MA 02110-1548. BBH&Co., a private bank founded in 1818, is neither a publicly held company nor insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. BBH&Co. is authorized to conduct a commercial banking business in accordance with the provisions of Article IV of the New York State Banking Law, New York Banking Law §§160–181, and is subject to regulation, supervision, and examination by the New York State Department of Financial Services. BBH&Co. is also licensed to conduct a commercial banking business by the Commonwealths of Massachusetts and Pennsylvania and is subject to supervision and examination by the banking supervisors of those states.

 

UNG also employs ALPS Distributors as its marketing agent. USCF pays the Marketing Agent an annual fee. In no event may the aggregate compensation paid to the Marketing Agent and any affiliate of USCF for distribution-related services in connection with the offering of shares exceed ten percent (10%) of the gross proceeds of the offering.

 

ALPS Distributors’ principal business address is 1290 Broadway, Suite 1100, Denver, CO 80203. ALPS Distributors is a broker-dealer registered with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”) and a member of the Securities Investor Protection Corporation.

 

On October 8, 2013, USCF entered into a Futures and Cleared Derivatives Transactions Customer Account Agreement with RBC Capital Markets, LLC (“RBC Capital” or “RBC”) to serve as UNG’s FCM, effective October 10, 2013. This agreement requires RBC Capital to provide services to UNG, as of October 10, 2013, in connection with the purchase and sale of Futures Contracts and Other Natural Gas-Related Investments that may be purchased or sold by or through RBC Capital for UNG’s account. For the period October 10, 2013 and after, UNG pays RBC Capital commissions for executing and clearing trades on behalf of UNG.

 

RBC Capital’s primary address is 500 West Madison Street, Suite 2500, Chicago, Illinois 60661. Effective October 10, 2013, RBC Capital became the futures clearing broker for UNG. RBC Capital is registered in the United States with FINRA as a broker-dealer and with the CFTC as an FCM. RBC Capital is a member of various U.S. futures and securities exchanges.

 

RBC is a large broker-dealer subject to many different complex legal and regulatory requirements. As a result, certain of RBC's regulators may from time to time conduct investigations, initiate enforcement proceedings and/or enter into settlements with RBC with respect to issues raised in various investigations. RBC complies fully with its regulators in all investigations being conducted and in all settlements it reaches. In addition, RBC is and has been subject to a variety of civil legal claims in various jurisdictions, a variety of settlement agreements and a variety of orders, awards and judgments made against it by courts and tribunals, both in regard to such claims and investigations. RBC complies fully with all settlements it reaches and all orders, awards and judgments made against it.

 

RBC has been named as a defendant in various legal actions, including arbitrations, class actions and other litigation including those described below, arising in connection with its activities as a broker-dealer. Certain of the actual or threatened legal actions include claims for substantial compensatory and/or punitive damages or claims for indeterminate amounts of damages. RBC is also involved, in other reviews, investigations and proceedings (both formal and informal) by governmental and self-regulatory agencies regarding RBC's business, including among other matters, accounting and operational matters, certain of which may result in adverse judgments, settlements, fines, penalties, injunctions or other relief.

 

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RBC contests liability and/or the amount of damages as appropriate in each pending matter. In view of the inherent difficulty of predicting the outcome of such matters, particularly in cases where claimants seek substantial or indeterminate damages or where investigations and proceedings are in the early stages, RBC cannot predict the loss or range of loss, if any, related to such matters; how or if such matters will be resolved; when they will ultimately be resolved; or what the eventual settlement, fine, penalty or other relief, if any, might be. Subject to the foregoing, RBC believes, based on current knowledge and after consultation with counsel, that the outcome of such pending matters will not have a material adverse effect on the consolidated financial condition of RBC.

 

On June 18, 2015, in connection with the SEC's Municipalities Continuing Disclosure Cooperation (MCDC) initiative, the SEC commenced and settled an administrative proceeding against RBC Capital Markets, LLC for willful violations of Sections 17(a)(2) and 17(a)(3) of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended (“Securities Act”) after the firm self-reported instances in which it conducted inadequate due diligence in certain municipal securities offerings and as a result, failed to form a reasonable basis for believing the truthfulness of certain material representations in official statements issued in connection with those offerings.

 

RBC and certain affiliates were named as defendants in a lawsuit relating to their role in transactions involving investments made by a number of Wisconsin school districts in certain collateralized debt obligations. These transactions were also the subject of a regulatory investigation, which was resolved in 2011. RBC reached a final settlement with all parties in the civil litigation, and the civil action against RBC was dismissed with prejudice on December 6, 2016.

 

Various regulators are conducting inquiries regarding potential violations of law by a number of banks and other entities, including RBC, regarding foreign exchange trading. Since 2015, RBC is a named defendant, along with many other entities, in pending putative class actions in the U.S. and Canada regarding foreign exchange trading. Based on the facts currently known, the ultimate resolution of these collective matters is not expected to have a material adverse effect on RBC.

 

On April 13, 2015, RBC’s affiliate, Royal Bank of Canada Trust Company (Bahamas) Limited (RBC Bahamas), was charged in France with complicity in tax fraud. RBC Bahamas believes that its actions did not violate French law and contested the charge in the French court. The trial of this matter has concluded and a verdict was delivered on January 12, 2017, acquitting RBC and the other defendants.

 

Thornburg Mortgage Inc. (now known as TMST) and RBC were parties to a master repurchase agreement executed in September 2003 whereby TMST financed its purchase of residential mortgage-backed securities. Upon TMST’s default during the financial crisis, RBC valued TMST’s collateral at allegedly deflated prices. After TMST’s bankruptcy filing, TMST’s trustee brought suit against RBC in 2011 for breach of contract. In 2015, TMST was awarded more than $45 million in damages. RBC has appealed. The appeals court set a briefing schedule and simultaneously ordered the parties to participate in a mediation. The parties have subsequently reached an agreement to settle the matter; a motion to approve the settlement was filed with the bankruptcy court on January 10, 2016.

 

On October 14, 2014, the Delaware Court of Chancery (the Court of Chancery) in a class action brought by former shareholders of Rural/Metro Corporation, held RBC Capital Markets, LLC liable for aiding and abetting a breach of fiduciary duty by three Rural/Metro directors, but did not make an additional award for attorney’s fees. A final judgment was entered on February 19, 2015 in the amount of US$93 million plus post judgment interest. RBC appealed the Court of Chancery’s determination of liability and quantum of damages, and the plaintiffs cross-appealed the ruling on additional attorneys’ fees. On November 30, 2015, the Delaware Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Chancery with respect to both the appeal and cross-appeal. RBC is cooperating with an investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission relating to this matter. In particular, the SEC contended that RBC caused materially false and misleading information to be included in the proxy statement that Rural filed to solicit shareholder approval for the sale in violation of section 14(A) of the Exchange Act and Rule 14A-9 thereunder. On August 31, 2016, RBC was ordered by the SEC to cease and desist and paid $500,000 in disgorgement, plus interest of $77,759 and a civil penalty of $2 million.

 

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On March 11, 2013, the New Jersey Bureau of Securities entered a consent order settling an administrative complaint against RBC, which alleged that RBC failed to follow its own procedures with respect to monthly account reviews and failed to maintain copies of the monthly account reviews with respect to certain accounts that James Hankins Jr. maintained at the firm in violation of N.J.S.A. 49:3-58(a)(2)(xi) and 49:3-59(b). Without admitting or denying the findings of fact and conclusions of law, RBC consented to a civil monetary penalty of $150,000 (of which $100,000 was suspended as a result of the firm’s cooperation) and to pay disgorgement of $300,000.

 

On June 12, 2012, the State of Illinois Secretary of State Securities Department consented to entry of a judgment enjoining the firm for violation of the Illinois Securities Law of 1953. RBC undertook to repurchase auction rate securities from certain customers before June 30, 2009. RBC also undertook to use best efforts to provide, by December 31, 2009, liquidity opportunities for customers ineligible for the buyback. RBC undertook to provide periodic reports to regulator. RBC paid a penalty of $1,400,139.82.

 

On May 10, 2012, FINRA commenced and settled an administrative proceeding against RBC for violations of FINRA Rules 1122 and 2010 and NASD Rules 2110 and 3010 for failing to establish, maintain and enforce written supervisory procedures reasonably designed to achieve compliance with applicable rules concerning short-term transactions in closed end funds. RBC paid a fine of $200,000.

 

On May 2, 2012, the Massachusetts Securities Division entered a consent order settling an administrative complaint against RBC, which alleged that RBC recommended unsuitable products to its brokerage and advisory clients and failed to supervise its registered representatives’ sales of inverse and leveraged ETFs in violation of Section 204(a)(2) of the Massachusetts Uniform Securities Act ("MUSA"). Without admitting or denying the allegations of fact, RBC consented to permanently cease and desist from violations of MUSA, pay restitution of $2.9 million to the investors who purchased the inverse and leveraged ETFs and pay a civil monetary penalty of $250,000.

 

Please see RBC's Form BD, which is available on the FINRA BrokerCheck program, for more details. 

 

RBC will act only as clearing broker for UNG and as such will be paid commissions for executing and clearing trades on behalf of UNG. RBC has not passed upon the adequacy or accuracy of this annual report on Form 10-K. RBC will not act in any supervisory capacity with respect to USCF or participate in the management of USCF or UNG.

 

RBC is not affiliated with UNG or USCF. Therefore, neither USCF nor UNG believes that there are any conflicts of interest with RBC or its trading principals arising from its acting as UNG’s FCM.

 

Currently, USCF does not employ commodity trading advisors for the trading of UNG contracts. USCF currently does, however, employ SummerHaven Investment Management, LLC as a trading advisor for USCI, CPER and USAG. If, in the future, USCF does employ commodity trading advisors for UNG, it will choose each advisor based on arm’s-length negotiations and will consider the advisor’s experience, fees and reputation.

 

Fees of UNG

 

Fees and Compensation Arrangements with USCF and Non-Affiliated Service Providers(1)

 

Service Provider   Compensation Paid by USCF
BBH&Co., Custodian and Administrator   Minimum amount of $75,000 annually for its custody, fund accounting and fund administration services rendered to all funds, as well as a $20,000 annual fee for its transfer agency services. In addition, an asset-based charge of (a) 0.06% for the first $500 million of UNG’s and the Related Public Funds’ combined net assets, (b) 0.0465% for UNG’s and the Related Public Funds’ combined net assets greater than $500 million but less than $1 billion, and (c) 0.035% once UNG’s and the Related Public Funds’ combined net assets exceed $1 billion.(2)
   
ALPS Distributors – Marketing Agent   0.06% on UNG’s assets up to $3 billion; and 0.04% on UNG’s assets in excess of $3 billion.

 

(1) USCF pays this compensation. 
(2) The annual minimum amount will not apply if the asset-based charge for all accounts in the aggregate exceeds $75,000. USCF also will pay transaction charge fees to BBH&Co., ranging from $7 to $15 per transaction for the funds. 

 

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Compensation to USCF

 

Assets   Management Fee 
First $1,000,000,000   0.60 % of NAV 
After the first $1,000,000,000   0.50 % of NAV 

 

Fees are calculated on a daily basis (accrued at 1/365 of the applicable percentage of total net assets on that day) and paid on a monthly basis. Total net assets are calculated by taking the current market value of UNG’s total assets and subtracting any liabilities.

 

Fees and Compensation Arrangements between UNG and Non-Affiliated Service Providers(3)

 

Service Provider   Compensation Paid by UNG
RBC Capital Markets Futures Commission Merchant   Approximately $3.50 per buy or sell; charges may vary

 

(3)   UNG pays this compensation.

 

New York Mercantile Exchange Licensing Fee(4) - 0.015% on all net assets.

 

(4)   Fees are calculated on a daily basis (accrued at 1/365 of the applicable percentage of NAV on that day) and paid on a monthly basis. UNG is responsible for its pro rata share of the assets held by UNG and the Related Public Funds, other than BNO, USCI, CPER and USAG.

 

Expenses Paid or Accrued by UNG from Inception through December 31, 2016 in dollar terms:

 

Expenses:  Amount in DollarTerms 
Amount Paid or Accrued to USCF:  $69,083,539 
Amount Paid or Accrued in Portfolio Brokerage Commissions:  $35,852,240 
Other Amounts Paid or Accrued(5) :  $22,520,226 
Total Expenses Paid or Accrued:  $127,456,005 

 

(5)   Includes expenses relating to the registration of additional shares, legal fees, auditing fees, printing expenses, licensing fees, tax reporting fees, prepaid insurance expenses and miscellaneous expenses and fees and expenses paid to the independent directors of USCF.

 

Expenses Paid or Accrued by UNG from Inception through December 31, 2016 as a Percentage of Average Daily Net Assets:

 

Expenses:   Amount as a Percentage
of Average Daily Net Assets
 
Amount Paid or Accrued to USCF:   0.56 % annualized 
Amount Paid or Accrued in Portfolio Brokerage Commissions:   0.29 % annualized 
Other Amounts Paid or Accrued(7) :   0.19 % annualized 
Total Expenses Paid or Accrued:   1.04 % annualized 

 

(7)   Includes expenses relating to the registration of additional shares, legal fees, auditing fees, printing expenses, licensing fees, tax reporting fees, prepaid insurance expenses and miscellaneous expenses and fees and expenses paid to the independent directors of USCF.

 

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Other Fees. UNG also pays the fees and expenses associated with its audit expenses, tax accounting and reporting requirements. These fees were approximately $900,000 for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2016. In addition, UNG is responsible for paying its portion of the directors’ and officers’ liability insurance for UNG and the Related Public Funds and the fees and expenses of the independent directors who also serve as audit committee members of UNG and the Related Public Funds organized as limited partnerships and, as of July 8, 2011, those Related Public Funds organized as a series of a Delaware statutory trust. UNG shares the fees and expenses on a pro rata basis with each Related Public Fund, as described above, based on the relative assets of each fund computed on a daily basis. These fees and expenses for the year ended December 31, 2016 were $582,050 for UNG and the Related Public Funds. UNG’s portion of such fees and expenses for the year ended December 31, 2016 was $94,521.

 

Form of Shares

 

Registered Form. Shares are issued in registered form in accordance with the LP Agreement. The Administrator has been appointed registrar and transfer agent for the purpose of transferring shares in certificated form. The Administrator keeps a record of all limited partners and holders of the shares in certificated form in the registry. USCF recognizes transfers of shares in certificated form only if done in accordance with the LP Agreement. The beneficial interests in such shares are held in book-entry form through participants and/or accountholders in the Depository Trust Company (“DTC”).

 

Book Entry. Individual certificates are not issued for the shares. Instead, shares are represented by one or more global certificates, which are deposited by the Administrator with DTC and registered in the name of Cede & Co., as nominee for DTC. The global certificates evidence all of the shares outstanding at any time. Shareholders are limited to: (1) participants in DTC such as banks, brokers, dealers and trust companies (“DTC Participants”), (2) those who maintain, either directly or indirectly, a custodial relationship with a DTC Participant (“Indirect Participants”), and (3) those banks, brokers, dealers, trust companies and others who hold interests in the shares through DTC Participants or Indirect Participants, in each case who satisfy the requirements for transfers of shares. DTC Participants acting on behalf of investors holding shares through such participants’ accounts in DTC will follow the delivery practice applicable to securities eligible for DTC’s Same-Day Funds Settlement System. Shares are credited to DTC Participants’ securities accounts following confirmation of receipt of payment.

 

DTC. DTC has advised UNG as follows: It is a limited purpose trust company organized under the laws of the State of New York and is a member of the Federal Reserve System, a “clearing corporation” within the meaning of the New York Uniform Commercial Code and a “clearing agency” registered pursuant to the provisions of Section 17A of the Exchange Act. DTC holds securities for DTC Participants and facilitates the clearance and settlement of transactions between DTC Participants through electronic book-entry changes in accounts of DTC Participants.

 

Calculating Per Share NAV

 

UNG’s per share NAV is calculated by:

 

  Taking the current market value of its total assets;
  Subtracting any liabilities; and
  Dividing that total by the total number of outstanding shares.

 

The Administrator calculates the per share NAV of UNG once each NYSE Arca trading day. The per share NAV for a normal trading day is released after 4:00 p.m. New York time. Trading during the core trading session on the NYSE Arca typically closes at 4:00 p.m. New York time. The Administrator uses the NYMEX closing price (determined at the earlier of the close of the NYMEX or 2:30 p.m. New York time) for the Futures Contracts traded on the NYMEX, but calculates or determines the value of all other UNG investments (including Futures Contracts not traded on the NYMEX, Other Natural Gas-Related Investments and Treasuries) using market quotations, if available, or other information customarily used to determine the fair value of such investments as of the earlier of the close of the NYSE Arca or 4:00 p.m. New York time, in accordance with the current Administrative Agency Agreement among BBH&Co., UNG and USCF. “Other information” customarily used in determining fair value includes information consisting of market data in the relevant market supplied by one or more third parties including, without limitation, relevant rates, prices, yields, yield curves, volatilities, spreads, correlations or other market data in the relevant market; or information of the types described above from internal sources if that information is of the same type used by UNG in the regular course of its business for the valuation of similar transactions. The information may include costs of funding, to the extent costs of funding are not and would not be a component of the other information being utilized. Third parties supplying quotations or market data may include, without limitation, dealers in the relevant markets, end-users of the relevant product, information vendors, brokers and other sources of market information.

 

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In addition, in order to provide updated information relating to UNG for use by investors and market professionals, the NYSE Arca calculates and disseminates throughout the core trading session on each trading day an updated indicative fund value. The indicative fund value is calculated by using the prior day’s closing per share NAV of UNG as a base and updating that value throughout the trading day to reflect changes in the most recently reported trade price for the active natural gas Futures Contracts on the NYMEX. The prices reported for those Futures Contract months are adjusted based on the prior day’s spread differential between settlement values for the relevant contract and the spot month contract. In the event that the spot month contract is also the Benchmark Futures Contract, the last sale price for that contract is not adjusted. The indicative fund value share basis disseminated during NYSE Arca core trading session hours should not be viewed as an actual real time update of the per share NAV, because the per share NAV is calculated only once at the end of each trading day based upon the relevant end of day values of UNG’s investments.

 

The indicative fund value is disseminated on a per share basis every 15 seconds during regular NYSE Arca core trading session hours of 9:30 a.m. New York time to 4:00 p.m. New York time. The normal trading hours of the NYMEX are 9:00 a.m. New York time to 2:30 p.m. New York time. This means that there is a gap in time at the beginning and the end of each day during which UNG’s shares are traded on the NYSE Arca, but real-time NYMEX trading prices for Futures Contracts traded on the NYMEX are not available. During such gaps in time, the indicative fund value will be calculated based on the end of day price of such Futures Contracts from the NYMEX’s immediately preceding trading session. In addition, other Futures Contracts, Other Natural Gas-Related Investments and Treasuries held by UNG will be valued by the Administrator, using rates and points received from client-approved third party vendors (such as Reuters and WM Company) and advisor quotes. These investments will not be included in the indicative fund value.

 

The NYSE Arca disseminates the indicative fund value through the facilities of CTA/CQ High Speed Lines. In addition, the indicative fund value is published on the NYSE Arca’s website and is available through on-line information services such as Bloomberg and Reuters.

 

Dissemination of the indicative fund value provides additional information that is not otherwise available to the public and is useful to investors and market professionals in connection with the trading of UNG shares on the NYSE Arca. Investors and market professionals are able throughout the trading day to compare the market price of UNG and the indicative fund value. If the market price of UNG shares diverges significantly from the indicative fund value, market professionals will have an incentive to execute arbitrage trades. For example, if UNG appears to be trading at a discount compared to the indicative fund value, a market professional could buy UNG shares on the NYSE Arca and sell short Futures Contracts. Such arbitrage trades can tighten the tracking between the market price of UNG and the indicative fund value and thus can be beneficial to all market participants.

 

Creation and Redemption of Shares

 

UNG creates and redeems shares from time to time, but only in one or more Creation Baskets or Redemption Baskets. The creation and redemption of baskets are only made in exchange for delivery to UNG or the distribution by UNG of the amount of Treasuries and any cash represented by the baskets being created or redeemed, the amount of which is based on the combined NAV of the number of shares included in the baskets being created or redeemed determined after 4:00 p.m. New York time on the day the order to create or redeem baskets is properly received.

 

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Authorized Participants are the only persons that may place orders to create and redeem baskets. Authorized Participants must be (1) registered broker-dealers or other securities market participants, such as banks and other financial institutions, that are not required to register as broker-dealers to engage in securities transactions as described below, and (2) DTC Participants. To become an Authorized Participant, a person must enter into an Authorized Participant Agreement with USCF on behalf of UNG (each such agreement, an “Authorized Participant Agreement”). The Authorized Participant Agreement provides the procedures for the creation and redemption of baskets and for the delivery of the Treasuries and any cash required for such creations and redemptions. The Authorized Participant Agreement and the related procedures attached thereto may be amended by UNG, without the consent of any limited partner or shareholder or Authorized Participant. Authorized Participants will pay a transaction fee of $1,000 to UNG for each order they place to create or redeem one or more baskets. Authorized Participants who make deposits with UNG in exchange for baskets receive no fees, commissions or other form of compensation or inducement of any kind from either UNG or USCF, and no such person will have any obligation or responsibility to USCF or UNG to effect any sale or resale of shares. As of December 31, 2016, 16 Authorized Participants had entered into agreements with USCF on behalf of UNG. During the year ended December 31, 2016, UNG issued 956 Creation Baskets and redeemed 970 Redemption Baskets.

 

Certain Authorized Participants are expected to be capable of participating directly in the physical natural gas market and the natural gas futures market. In some cases, Authorized Participants or their affiliates may from time to time buy natural gas or sell natural gas or Natural Gas Interests and may profit in these instances. USCF believes that the size and operation of the natural gas market make it unlikely that an Authorized Participant’s direct activities in the natural gas or securities markets will significantly affect the price of natural gas, Natural Gas Interests, or the price of the shares.

 

Each Authorized Participant is required to be registered as a broker-dealer under the Exchange Act and is a member in good standing with FINRA, or exempt from being or otherwise not required to be registered as a broker-dealer or a member of FINRA, and qualified to act as a broker or dealer in the states or other jurisdictions where the nature of its business so requires. Certain Authorized Participants may also be regulated under federal and state banking laws and regulations. Each Authorized Participant has its own set of rules and procedures, internal controls and information barriers as it determines is appropriate in light of its own regulatory regime.

 

Under the Authorized Participant Agreement, USCF, and UNG under limited circumstances, have agreed to indemnify the Authorized Participants against certain liabilities, including liabilities under the Securities Act, and to contribute to the payments the Authorized Participants may be required to make in respect of those liabilities.

 

The following description of the procedures for the creation and redemption of baskets is only a summary and an investor should refer to the relevant provisions of the LP Agreement and the form of Authorized Participant Agreement for more detail, each of which is incorporated by reference into this annual report on Form 10-K.

 

Creation Procedures

 

On any business day, an Authorized Participant may place an order with the Marketing Agent to create one or more baskets. For purposes of processing purchase and redemption orders, a “business day” means any day other than a day when any of the NYSE Arca, the NYMEX or the NYSE is closed for regular trading. Purchase orders must be placed by 12:00 p.m. New York time or the close of regular trading on the NYSE Arca, whichever is earlier. The day on which the Marketing Agent receives a valid purchase order is referred to as the purchase order date.

 

By placing a purchase order, an Authorized Participant agrees to deposit Treasuries, cash, or a combination of Treasuries and cash, as described below. Prior to the delivery of baskets for a purchase order, the Authorized Participant must also have wired to the Custodian the non-refundable transaction fee due for the purchase order. Authorized Participants may not withdraw a creation request, except as otherwise set forth in the procedures in the Authorized Participant Agreement.

 

The manner by which creations are made is dictated by the terms of the Authorized Participant Agreement. By placing a purchase order, an Authorized Participant agrees to (1) deposit Treasuries, cash or a combination of Treasuries and cash with the Custodian, and (2) if required by USCF in its sole discretion, enter into or arrange for a block trade, an exchange for physical or exchange for swap, or any other OTC energy transaction (through itself or a designated acceptable broker) with UNG for the purchase of a number and type of futures contracts at the closing settlement price for such contracts on the purchase order date. If an Authorized Participant fails to consummate (1) and (2), the order shall be cancelled. The number and type of contracts specified shall be determined by USCF, in its sole discretion, to meet UNG’s investment objective and shall be purchased as a result of the Authorized Participant’s purchase of shares.

 

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Determination of Required Deposits

 

The total deposit required to create each basket (“Creation Basket Deposit”) is the amount of Treasuries and/or cash that is in the same proportion to the total assets of UNG (net of estimated accrued but unpaid fees, expenses and other liabilities) on the purchase order date as the number of shares to be created under the purchase order is in proportion to the total number of shares outstanding on the purchase order dates. USCF determines, directly in its sole discretion or in consultation with the Administrator, the requirements for Treasuries and the amount of cash, including the maximum permitted remaining maturity of a Treasury and proportions of Treasury and cash that may be included in deposits to create baskets. The Marketing Agent will publish such requirements at the beginning of each business day. The amount of cash deposit required is the difference between the aggregate market value of the Treasuries required to be included in a Creation Basket Deposit as of 4:00 p.m. New York time on the date the order to purchase is properly received and the total required deposit.

 

Delivery of Required Deposits

 

An Authorized Participant who places a purchase order is responsible for transferring to UNG’s account with the Custodian the required amount of Treasuries and cash by the end of the third business day following the purchase order date. Upon receipt of the deposit amount, the Administrator directs DTC to credit the number of baskets ordered to the Authorized Participant’s DTC account on the third business day following the purchase order date. The expense and risk of delivery and ownership of Treasuries until such Treasuries have been received by the Custodian on behalf of UNG shall be borne solely by the Authorized Participant.

 

Because orders to purchase baskets must be placed by 12:00 p.m., New York time, but the total payment required to create a basket during the continuous offering period will not be determined until after 4:00 p.m. New York time on the date the purchase order is received, Authorized Participants will not know the total amount of the payment required to create a basket at the time they submit an irrevocable purchase order for the basket. UNG’s per share NAV and the total amount of the payment required to create a basket could rise or fall substantially between the time an irrevocable purchase order is submitted and the time the amount of the purchase price in respect thereof is determined.

 

Rejection of Purchase Orders

 

USCF acting by itself or through the Marketing Agent shall have the absolute right but no obligation to reject a purchase order or a Creation Basket Deposit if:

 

  it determines that the investment alternative available to UNG at that time will not enable it to meet its investment objective;
  it determines that the purchase order or the Creation Basket Deposit is not in proper form;
  it believes that the purchase order or the Creation Basket Deposit would have adverse tax consequences to UNG, the limited partners or its shareholders;
  the acceptance or receipt of the Creation Basket Deposit would, in the opinion of counsel to USCF, be unlawful; or
  circumstances outside the control of USCF, Marketing Agent or Custodian make it, for all practical purposes, not feasible to process creations of baskets.

 

None of USCF, the Marketing Agent or the Custodian will be liable for the rejection of any purchase order or Creation Basket Deposit.

 

Redemption Procedures

 

The procedures by which an Authorized Participant can redeem one or more baskets mirror the procedures for the creation of baskets. On any business day, an Authorized Participant may place an order with the Marketing Agent to redeem one or more baskets. Redemption orders must be placed by 12:00 p.m. New York time or the close of regular trading on the NYSE Arca, whichever is earlier. A redemption order so received will be effective on the date it is received in satisfactory form by the Marketing Agent (“Redemption Order Date”). The redemption procedures allow Authorized Participants to redeem baskets and do not entitle an individual shareholder to redeem any shares in an amount less than a Redemption Basket, or to redeem baskets other than through an Authorized Participant.

 

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By placing a redemption order, an Authorized Participant agrees to deliver the baskets to be redeemed through DTC’s book-entry system to UNG, as described below. Prior to the delivery of the redemption distribution for a redemption order, the Authorized Participant must also have wired to UNG’s account at the Custodian the non-refundable transaction fee due for the redemption order. An Authorized Participant may not withdraw a redemption order, except as otherwise set forth in the procedures in the Authorized Participant Agreement.

 

The manner by which redemptions are made is dictated by the terms of the Authorized Participant Agreement. By placing a redemption order, an Authorized Participant agrees to (1) deliver the Redemption Basket to be redeemed through DTC’s book-entry system to UNG’s account with the Custodian not later than 3:00 p.m. New York time on the third business day following the effective date of the redemption order (“Redemption Distribution Date”), and (2) if required by USCF in its sole discretion, enter into or arrange for a block trade, an exchange for physical or exchange for swap, or any other OTC energy transaction (through itself or a designated acceptable broker) with UNG for the sale of a number and type of futures contracts at the closing settlement price for such contracts on the Redemption Order Date. If an Authorized Participant fails to consummate (1) and (2) above, the order shall be cancelled. The number and type of contracts specified shall be determined by USCF, in its sole discretion, to meet UNG’s investment objective and shall be sold as a result of the Authorized Participant’s sale of shares.

 

Determination of Redemption Distribution

 

The redemption distribution from UNG consists of a transfer to the redeeming Authorized Participant of an amount of Treasuries and/or cash that is in the same proportion to the total assets of UNG (net of estimated accrued but unpaid fees, expenses and other liabilities) on the date the order to redeem is properly received as the number of shares to be redeemed under the redemption order is in proportion to the total number of shares outstanding on the date the order is received. USCF, directly or in consultation with the Administrator, determines the requirements for Treasuries and the amounts of cash, including the maximum permitted remaining maturity of a Treasury, and the proportions of Treasuries and cash that may be included in distributions to redeem baskets. The Marketing Agent will publish an estimate of the redemption distribution per basket as of the beginning of each business day.

 

Delivery of Redemption Distribution

 

The redemption distribution due from UNG will be delivered to the Authorized Participant by 3:00 p.m. New York time on the third business day following the redemption order date if, by 3:00 p.m. New York time on such third business day, UNG’s DTC account has been credited with the baskets to be redeemed. If UNG’s DTC account has not been credited with all of the baskets to be redeemed by such time, the redemption distribution will be delivered to the extent of whole baskets received. Any remainder of the redemption distribution will be delivered on the next business day to the extent of remaining whole baskets received if UNG receives the fee applicable to the extension of the redemption distribution date which USCF may, from time to time, determine and the remaining baskets to be redeemed are credited to UNG’s DTC account by 3:00 p.m. New York time on such next business day. Any further outstanding amount of the redemption order shall be cancelled. Pursuant to information from USCF, the Custodian will also be authorized to deliver the redemption distribution notwithstanding that the baskets to be redeemed are not credited to UNG’s DTC account by 3:00 p.m. New York time on the third business day following the redemption order date if the Authorized Participant has collateralized its obligation to deliver the baskets through DTC’s book entry-system on such terms as USCF may from time to time determine.

 

Suspension or Rejection of Redemption Orders

 

USCF may, in its discretion, suspend the right of redemption, or postpone the redemption settlement date, (1) for any period during which the NYSE Arca or the NYMEX is closed other than customary weekend or holiday closings, or trading on the NYSE Arca or the NYMEX is suspended or restricted, (2) for any period during which an emergency exists as a result of which delivery, disposal or evaluation of Treasuries is not reasonably practicable, or (3) for such other period as USCF determines to be necessary for the protection of the limited partners or shareholders. For example, USCF may determine that it is necessary to suspend redemptions to allow for the orderly liquidation of UNG’s assets at an appropriate value to fund a redemption. If USCF has difficulty liquidating its positions, e.g., because of a market disruption event in the futures markets, a suspension of trading by the exchange where the futures contracts are listed or an unanticipated delay in the liquidation of a position in an OTC contract, it may be appropriate to suspend redemptions until such time as such circumstances are rectified. None of USCF, the Marketing Agent, the Administrator, or the Custodian will be liable to any person or in any way for any loss or damages that may result from any such suspension or postponement.

 

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Redemption orders must be made in whole baskets. USCF will reject a redemption order if the order is not in proper form as described in the Authorized Participant Agreement or if the fulfillment of the order, in the opinion of its counsel, might be unlawful. USCF may also reject a redemption order if the number of shares being redeemed would reduce the remaining outstanding shares to 100,000 shares (i.e., one basket) or less.

 

Creation and Redemption Transaction Fee

 

To compensate UNG for its expenses in connection with the creation and redemption of baskets, an Authorized Participant is required to pay a transaction fee to UNG of $1,000 per order to create or redeem baskets, regardless of the number of baskets in such order. An order may include multiple baskets. The transaction fee may be reduced, increased or otherwise changed by USCF. USCF shall notify DTC of any change in the transaction fee and will not implement any increase in the fee for the redemption of baskets until 30 days after the date of the notice.

 

Tax Responsibility

 

Authorized Participants are responsible for any transfer tax, sales or use tax, stamp tax, recording tax, value added tax or similar tax or governmental charge applicable to the creation or redemption of baskets, regardless of whether or not such tax or charge is imposed directly on the Authorized Participant, and agree to indemnify USCF and UNG if they are required by law to pay any such tax, together with any applicable penalties, additions to tax and interest thereon.

 

Secondary Market Transactions

 

As noted, UNG creates and redeems shares from time to time, but only in one or more Creation Baskets or Redemption Baskets. The creation and redemption of baskets are only made in exchange for delivery to UNG or the distribution by UNG of the amount of Treasuries and cash represented by the baskets being created or redeemed, the amount of which will be based on the aggregate NAV of the number of shares included in the baskets being created or redeemed determined on the day the order to create or redeem baskets is properly received.

 

As discussed above, Authorized Participants are the only persons that may place orders to create and redeem baskets. Authorized Participants must be registered broker-dealers or other securities market participants, such as banks and other financial institutions that are not required to register as broker-dealers to engage in securities transactions. An Authorized Participant is under no obligation to create or redeem baskets, and an Authorized Participant is under no obligation to offer to the public shares of any baskets it does create. Authorized Participants that do offer to the public shares from the baskets they create will do so at per-share offering prices that are expected to reflect, among other factors, the trading price of the shares on the NYSE Arca, the NAV of UNG at the time the Authorized Participant purchased the Creation Baskets and the per share NAV of the shares at the time of the offer of the shares to the public, the supply of and demand for shares at the time of sale, and the liquidity of the Futures Contract market and the market for Other Natural Gas-Related Investments. The prices of shares offered by Authorized Participants are expected to fall between UNG’s per share NAV and the trading price of the shares on the NYSE Arca at the time of sale. Shares initially comprising the same basket but offered by Authorized Participants to the public at different times may have different offering prices. An order for one or more baskets may be placed by an Authorized Participant on behalf of multiple clients. Authorized Participants who make deposits with UNG in exchange for baskets receive no fees, commissions or other form of compensation or inducement of any kind from either UNG or USCF, and no such person has any obligation or responsibility to USCF or UNG to effect any sale or resale of shares. Shares trade in the secondary market on the NYSE Arca. Shares may trade in the secondary market at prices that are lower or higher relative to their per share NAV. The amount of the discount or premium in the trading price relative to the per share NAV may be influenced by various factors, including the number of investors who seek to purchase or sell shares in the secondary market and the liquidity of the Futures Contracts market and the market for Other Natural Gas-Related Investments. While the shares trade during the core trading session on the NYSE Arca until 4:00 p.m. New York time, liquidity in the market for Futures Contracts and Other Natural Gas-Related Investments may be reduced after the close of the NYMEX at 2:30 p.m. New York time. As a result, during this time, trading spreads, and the resulting premium or discount, on the shares may widen.

 

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Investments

 

USCF causes UNG to transfer the proceeds from the sale of Creation Baskets to the Custodian or other custodian for trading activities. USCF will invest UNG’s assets in Futures Contracts and Other Natural Gas-Related Investments and investments in Treasuries, cash and/or cash equivalents. When UNG purchases a Futures Contract and certain exchange-traded Other Natural Gas-Related Investments, UNG is required to deposit 5% to 30% with the selling FCM on behalf of the exchange a portion of the value of the contract or other interest as security to ensure payment for the obligation under Natural Gas Interests at maturity. This deposit is known as initial margin. Counterparties in transactions in OTC Natural Gas Interests will generally impose similar collateral requirements on UNG. USCF will invest the assets that remain after margin and collateral are posted in Treasuries, cash and/or cash equivalents subject to these margin and collateral requirements. USCF has sole authority to determine the percentage of assets that are:

 

  held on deposit with the FCM or other custodian,
     
  used for other investments, and 
     
  held in bank accounts to pay current obligations and as reserves.

 

Ongoing margin and collateral payments will generally be required for both exchange-traded and OTC Natural Gas Interests based on changes in the value of the Natural Gas Interests. Furthermore, ongoing collateral requirements with respect to OTC Natural Gas Interests are negotiated by the parties, and may be affected by overall market volatility, volatility of the underlying commodity or index, the ability of the counterparty to hedge its exposure under a Natural Gas Interest and each party’s creditworthiness. In light of the differing requirements for initial payments under exchange-traded and OTC Natural Gas Interests and the fluctuating nature of ongoing margin and collateral payments, it is not possible to estimate what portion of UNG’s assets will be posted as margin or collateral at any given time. The Treasuries, cash and cash equivalents held by UNG will constitute reserves that will be available to meet ongoing margin and collateral requirements. All interest income will be used for UNG’s benefit.

 

An FCM, counterparty, government agency or commodity exchange could increase margin or collateral requirements applicable to UNG to hold trading positions at any time. Moreover, margin is merely a security deposit and has no bearing on the profit or loss potential for any positions held.

 

The assets of UNG posted as margin for Futures Contracts are held in segregated accounts pursuant to the CEA and CFTC regulations.

 

If UNG enters into a swap agreement, UNG must post both collateral and independent amounts to its swap counterparty(ies). The amount of collateral UNG posts changes according to the amounts owed by UNG to its counterparty on a given swap transaction, while independent amounts are fixed amounts posted by UNG at the start of a swap transaction. Collateral and independent amounts posted to swap counterparties will be held by a third party custodian.

 

The Commodity Interest Markets

 

General

 

The CEA governs the regulation of commodity interest transactions, markets and intermediaries. The CEA provides for varying degrees of regulation of commodity interest transactions depending upon: (1) the type of instrument being traded (e.g. contracts for future delivery, forwards, options, swaps or spot contracts), (2) the type of commodity underlying the instrument (distinctions are made between instruments based on agricultural commodities, energy and metals commodities and financial commodities), (3) the nature of the parties to the transaction (e.g. retail or eligible contract participant), (4) whether the transaction is entered into on a principal-to-principal or intermediated basis, (5) the type of market on which the transaction occurs, and (6) whether the transaction is subject to clearing through a clearing organization.

 

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The offer and sale of shares of UNG, as well as shares of each Related Public Fund, is registered under the Securities Act. UNG and the Related Public Funds are subject to the requirements of the Securities Act, the Exchange Act and the rules and regulations adopted thereunder, as administered by the SEC. Firms’ participation in the distribution of shares are regulated as described above, as well as by the self-regulatory association, FINRA.

 

Futures Contracts

 

A futures contract is a standardized contract traded on, or subject to the rules of, an exchange that calls for the future delivery of a specified quantity and type of a commodity at a specified time and place. Futures contracts are traded on a wide variety of commodities, including agricultural products, bonds, stock indices, interest rates, currencies, energy and metals. The size and terms of futures contracts on a particular commodity are identical and are not subject to any negotiation, other than with respect to price and the number of contracts traded between the buyer and seller.

 

The contractual obligations of a buyer or seller may generally be satisfied by taking or making physical delivery of the underlying commodity or by making an offsetting sale or purchase of an identical futures contract on the same or linked exchange before the designated date of delivery. The difference between the price at which the futures contract is purchased or sold and the price paid for the offsetting sale or purchase, after allowance for brokerage commissions, constitutes the profit or loss to the trader. Some futures contracts, such as stock index contracts, settle in cash (reflecting the difference between the contract purchase/sale price and the contract settlement price) rather than by delivery of the underlying commodity.

 

In market terminology, a trader who purchases a futures contract is long in the market and a trader who sells a futures contract is short in the market. Before a trader closes out his long or short position by an offsetting sale or purchase, his outstanding contracts are known as open trades or open positions. The aggregate amount of open positions held by traders in a particular contract is referred to as the open interest in such contract.

 

Forward Contracts

 

A forward contract is a contractual obligation to purchase or sell a specified quantity of a commodity at or before a specified date in the future at a specified price and, therefore, is economically similar to a futures contract. Unlike futures contracts, however, forward contracts are typically traded in the OTC markets and are not standardized contracts. Forward contracts for a given commodity are generally available for various amounts and maturities and are subject to individual negotiation between the parties involved. Moreover, generally there is no direct means of offsetting or closing out a forward contract by taking an offsetting position as one would a futures contract on a U.S. exchange. If a trader desires to close out a forward contract position, he generally will establish an opposite position in the contract but will settle and recognize the profit or loss on both positions simultaneously on the delivery date. Thus, unlike in the futures contract market where a trader who has offset positions will recognize profit or loss immediately, in the forward market a trader with a position that has been offset at a profit will generally not receive such profit until the delivery date, and likewise a trader with a position that has been offset at a loss will generally not have to pay money until the delivery date. Nevertheless, in some instances forward contracts now provide a right of offset or cash settlement as an alternative to making or taking delivery of the underlying commodity.

 

In general, the CFTC does not regulate the interbank and forward foreign currency markets with respect to transactions in contracts between certain sophisticated counterparties such as UNG or between certain regulated institutions and retail investors. Although U.S. banks are regulated in various ways by the Federal Reserve Board, the Comptroller of the Currency and other U.S. federal and state banking officials, banking authorities do not regulate the forward markets to the same extent that the swap markets are regulated by the CFTC and SEC.

 

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Regulation exempts both foreign exchange swaps and foreign exchange forwards from the definition of “swap” and, by extension, certain regulatory requirements applicable to swaps (such as clearing and margin). The exemption does not extend to other foreign exchange derivatives, such as foreign exchange options, currency swaps, and non-deliverable forwards.

 

While the U.S. government does not currently impose any restrictions on the movements of currencies, it could choose to do so. The imposition or relaxation of exchange controls in various jurisdictions could significantly affect the market for that and other jurisdictions’ currencies. Trading in the interbank market also exposes UNG to a risk of default since failure of a bank with which UNG had entered into a forward contract would likely result in a default and thus possibly substantial losses to UNG.

 

Options on Futures Contracts

 

Options on futures contracts are standardized contracts traded on an exchange. An option on a futures contract gives the buyer of the option the right, but not the obligation, to take a position at a specified price (the striking, strike, or exercise price) in the underlying futures contract or underlying interest. The buyer of a call option acquires the right, but not the obligation, to purchase or take a long position in the underlying interest, and the buyer of a put option acquires the right, but not the obligation, to sell or take a short position in the underlying interest.

 

The seller, or writer, of an option is obligated to take a position in the underlying interest at a specified price opposite to the option buyer if the option is exercised. The seller of a call option must stand ready to take a short position in the underlying interest at the strike price if the buyer should exercise the option. The seller of a put option, on the other hand, must stand ready to take a long position in the underlying interest at the strike price.

 

A call option is said to be in-the-money if the strike price is below current market levels and out-of-the-money if the strike price is above current market levels. Conversely, a put option is said to be in-the-money if the strike price is above the current market levels and out-of-the-money if the strike price is below current market levels.

 

Options have limited life spans, usually tied to the delivery or settlement date of the underlying interest. Some options, however, expire significantly in advance of such date. The purchase price of an option is referred to as its premium, which consists of its intrinsic value (which is related to the underlying market value) plus its time value. As an option nears its expiration date, the time value shrinks and the market and intrinsic values move into parity. An option that is out-of-the-money and not offset by the time it expires becomes worthless. On certain exchanges, in-the-money options are automatically exercised on their expiration date, but on others unexercised options simply become worthless after their expiration date.

 

Regardless of how much the market swings, the most an option buyer can lose is the option premium. The option buyer deposits his premium with his broker, and the money goes to the option seller. Option sellers, on the other hand, face risks similar to participants in the futures markets. For example, since the seller of a call option is assigned a short futures position if the option is exercised, his risk is the same as someone who initially sold a futures contract. Because no one can predict exactly how the market will move, the option seller typically posts margin to demonstrate his ability to meet any potential contractual obligations.

 

Options on Forward Contracts or Commodities

 

Options on forward contracts or commodities operate in a manner similar to options on futures contracts. An option on a forward contract or commodity gives the buyer of the option the right, but not the obligation, to take a position at a specified price in the underlying forward contract or commodity. However, unlike options on futures contracts, options on forward contracts or on commodities are individually negotiated contracts between counterparties and are typically traded in the OTC market. Therefore, options on forward contracts and physical commodities possess many of the same characteristics of forward contracts with respect to offsetting positions and credit risk that are described above.

 

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Swap Contracts

 

Swap transactions generally involve contracts between two parties to exchange a stream of payments computed by reference to a notional amount and the price of the asset that is the subject of the swap. Swap contracts are principally traded off-exchange, although certain swap contracts are also being traded in electronic trading facilities and cleared through clearing organizations.

 

Swaps are usually entered into on a net basis, that is, the two payment streams are netted out in a cash settlement on the payment date or dates specified in the agreement, with the parties receiving or paying, as the case may be, only the net amount of the two payments. Swaps do not generally involve the delivery of underlying assets or principal. Accordingly, the risk of loss with respect to swaps is generally limited to the net amount of payments that the party is contractually obligated to make. In some swap transactions one or both parties may require collateral deposits from the counterparty to support that counterparty’s obligation under the swap agreement. If the counterparty to such a swap defaults, the risk of loss consists of the net amount of payments that the party is contractually entitled to receive less any collateral deposits it is holding.

  

Some swap transactions are cleared through central counterparties. “Clearing” refers to the process by which a trade that is bilaterally executed by two parties is submitted to a central clearing counterparty, via a clearing member (i.e., an FCM), and replaced by two mirror swaps, with the central clearing counterparty becoming the counterparty to both of the initial parties to the swap. These transactions, known as cleared swaps, involve two counterparties first agreeing to the terms of a swap transaction, then submitting the transaction to a clearing house that acts as the central counterparty. Once accepted by the clearing house, the original swap transaction is terminated and replaced by two mirror trades for which the central counterparty becomes the counterparty to each of the original parties based upon the trade terms determined in the original transaction. In this manner each individual swap counterparty reduces its risk of loss due to counterparty nonperformance because the clearing house acts as the counterparty to each transaction.

 

Regulation

 

Futures exchanges in the United States are subject to varying degrees of regulation under the CEA depending on whether such exchange is a designated contract market, exempt board of trade or electronic trading facility. Clearing organizations are also subject to the CEA and the rules and regulations adopted thereunder and administered by the CFTC. The CFTC is the governmental agency charged with responsibility for regulation of futures exchanges and commodity interest trading. The CFTC’s function is to implement the CEA’s objectives of preventing price manipulation and excessive speculation and promoting orderly and efficient commodity interest markets. In addition, the various exchanges and clearing organizations themselves exercise regulatory and supervisory authority over their member firms.

 

The CFTC also regulates the activities of “commodity trading advisors” and “commodity pool operators” and the CFTC has adopted regulations with respect to certain of such persons’ activities. Pursuant to its authority, the CFTC requires a CPO, such as USCF, to keep accurate, current and orderly records with respect to each pool it operates. The CFTC may suspend, modify or terminate the registration of any registrant for failure to comply with CFTC rules or regulations. Suspension, restriction or termination of USCF’s registration as a CPO would prevent it, until such time (if any) as such registration were to be reinstated, from managing, and might result in the termination of, UNG or the Related Public Funds.

 

Under certain circumstances, the CEA grants shareholders the right to institute a reparations proceeding before the CFTC against USCF (as a registered commodity pool operator), as well as those of their respective employees who are required to be registered under the CEA. Shareholders may also be able to maintain a private right of action for certain violations of the CEA. 

 

Pursuant to authority in the CEA, the NFA has been formed and registered with the CFTC as a registered futures association. The NFA is the only self regulatory association for commodities professionals other than the exchanges. As such, the NFA promulgates rules governing the conduct of commodity professionals and disciplines those professionals that do not comply with such standards. The CFTC has delegated to the NFA responsibility for the registration of commodity pool operation. USCF is a member of the NFA. As a member of the NFA, USCF is subject to NFA standards relating to fair trade practices, financial condition, and consumer protection.

 

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The CEA requires all FCMs, such as UNG’s clearing brokers, to meet and maintain specified fitness and financial requirements, to segregate customer funds from proprietary funds and account separately for all customers’ funds and positions, and to maintain specified books and records open to inspection by the staff of the CFTC. The CFTC has similar authority over introducing brokers, or persons who solicit or accept orders for commodity interest trades but who do not accept margin deposits for the execution of trades. The CEA authorizes the CFTC to regulate trading by FCMs and by their officers and directors, permits the CFTC to require action by exchanges in the event of market emergencies, and establishes an administrative procedure under which customers may institute complaints for damages arising from alleged violations of the CEA. 

 

The regulations of the CFTC and the NFA prohibit any representation by a person registered with the CFTC or by any member of the NFA, that registration with the CFTC, or membership in the NFA, in any respect indicates that the CFTC or the NFA, as the case may be, has approved or endorsed that person or that person’s trading program or objectives. The registrations and memberships of the parties described in this summary must not be considered as constituting any such approval or endorsement. Likewise, no futures exchange has given or will give any similar approval or endorsement.

 

Regulations require enhanced customer protections, risk management programs, internal monitoring and controls, capital and liquidity standards, customer disclosures and auditing and examination programs for FCMs. The rules are intended to afford greater assurances to market participants that customer segregated funds and secured amounts are protected, customers are provided with appropriate notice of the risks of futures trading and of the FCMs with which they may choose to do business, FCMs are monitoring and managing risks in a robust manner, the capital and liquidity of FCMs are strengthened to safeguard the continued operations, and the auditing and examination programs of the CFTC and the self-regulatory organizations are monitoring the activities of FCMs in a thorough manner. 

 

UNG’s investors are afforded prescribed rights for reparations under the CEA against USCF (as a registered commodity pool operator), as well as its respective employees who are required to be registered under the CEA. Investors may also be able to maintain a private right of action for violations of the CEA. The CFTC has adopted rules implementing the reparation provisions of the CEA, which provide that any person may file a complaint for a reparations award with the CFTC for violation of the CEA against a floor broker or an FCM, introducing broker, commodity trading advisor, CPO, and their respective associated persons.

 

The regulation of commodity interest trading in the United States and other countries is an evolving area of the law. Below are discussed several key regulatory items that are relevant to UNG. The various statements made in this summary are subject to modification by legislative action and changes in the rules and regulations of the CFTC, the NFA, the futures exchanges, clearing organizations and other regulatory bodies. In addition, with regard to any other rules that the CFTC or SEC may adopt in the future, the effect of any such regulatory changes on UNG is impossible to predict, but it could be substantial and adverse.

 

Futures Contracts and Position Limits  

 

The CFTC is generally prohibited by statute from regulating trading on non-U.S. futures exchanges and markets. The CFTC, however, has adopted regulations relating to the marketing of non-U.S. futures contracts in the United States. These regulations permit certain contracts on non-U.S. exchanges to be offered and sold in the United States.

 

As discussed above, the CFTC has proposed to adopt the Position Limit Rules, which would impose limits on speculative positions in 25 physical commodity futures, and option contracts and swaps that are economically equivalent to such contracts, in the agriculture, energy and metals markets. The Position Limit Rules would, among other things: identify which contracts are subject to speculative position limits; set thresholds that restrict the size of speculative positions that a person may hold in the spot month, other individual months, and all months combined; create an exemption for positions that constitute bona fide hedging transactions; impose responsibilities on DCMs) and SEFs to establish position limits or, in some cases, position accountability rules; and apply to both futures and swaps across four relevant venues: OTC, DCMs, SEFs as well as certain non-U.S. located platforms. The CFTC’s first attempt at finalizing the Position Limit Rules, in 2011, was successfully challenged by market participants in 2012 and, since then, the CFTC has re-proposed them and solicited comments from market participants multiple times. At this time, it is unclear how the Position Limit Rules may affect UNG, but the effect may be substantial and adverse. By way of example, the Position Limit Rules may negatively impact the ability of UNG to meet its investment objectives through limits that may inhibit USCF’s ability to sell additional Creation Baskets of UNG.

 

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Until such time as the Position Limit Rules are adopted, the regulatory architecture in effect prior to the adoption of the Position Limit Rules will govern transactions in commodities and related derivatives (collectively, “Referenced Contracts”). Under that system, the CFTC enforces federal limits on speculation in nine agricultural products (e.g., corn, wheat and soy), while futures exchanges establish and enforce position limits and accountability levels for other agricultural products and certain energy products (e.g., oil and natural gas). As a result, UNG may be limited with respect to the size of its investments in any commodities subject to these limits.

 

Under existing and recently adopted CFTC regulations, for the purpose of position limits, a market participant is generally required to comply with the Aggregation Rules which, subject to certain narrow exceptions, require the aggregation of all positions for which the market participant controls the trading decisions with all positions for which the participant has a 10 percent or greater ownership interest in an account or position, as well as the positions of two or more persons acting pursuant to an express or implied agreement or understanding with the market participant. The Aggregation Rules will also apply with respect to the Position Limit Rules if and when such Position Limit Rules are adopted.

 

Margin Requirements

 

Futures and Cleared Swaps

 

Original or initial margin is the minimum amount of funds that must be deposited by a commodity interest trader with the trader’s broker to initiate and maintain an open position in futures contracts. Maintenance margin is the amount (generally less than the original margin) to which a trader’s account may decline before he must deliver additional margin. A margin deposit is like a cash performance bond. It helps assure the trader’s performance of the futures contracts that he or she purchases or sells.

 

Futures contracts are customarily bought and sold on initial margin that represents a very small percentage (ranging upward from 5%) of the aggregate purchase or sales price of the contract. Because of such low margin requirements, price fluctuations occurring in the futures markets may create profits and losses that, in relation to the amount invested, are greater than are customary in other forms of investment or speculation. As discussed below, adverse price changes in the futures contract may result in margin requirements that greatly exceed the initial margin. In addition, the amount of margin required in connection with a particular futures contract is set from time to time by the exchange on which the contract is traded and may be modified from time to time by the exchange during the term of the contract.

 

Brokerage firms, such as UNG’s clearing brokers, carrying accounts for traders in commodity interest contracts may not accept lower, and generally require higher, amounts of margin as a matter of policy to further protect themselves. The clearing brokers require UNG to make margin deposits equal to exchange minimum levels for all commodity interest contracts. This requirement may be altered from time to time in the clearing brokers’ discretion.

 

Margin requirements are computed each day by the relevant clearing organization and a trader’s clearing broker. When the market value of a particular open commodity interest position changes to a point where the margin on deposit does not satisfy maintenance margin requirements, a margin call is made by the broker. With respect to trading by UNG, UNG (and not its investors personally) is subject to margin calls.

 

Finally, many major U.S. exchanges have passed certain cross margining arrangements involving procedures pursuant to which the futures and options positions held in an account would, in the case of some accounts, be aggregated and margin requirements would be assessed on a portfolio basis, measuring the total risk of the combined positions.

 

Options

 

When a trader purchases an option, there is no margin requirement; however, the option premium must be paid in full. When a trader sells an option, on the other hand, he or she may be required to deposit margin in an amount determined by the margin requirements established for the underlying interest and, in addition, an amount substantially equal to the current premium for the option. The margin requirements imposed on the selling of options, although adjusted to reflect the probability that out-of-the-money options will not be exercised, can in fact be higher than those imposed in dealing in the futures markets directly. Complicated margin requirements apply to spreads and conversions, which are complex trading strategies in which a trader acquires a mixture of options positions and positions in the underlying interest.

 

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OTC Swaps

 

In October 2015 the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, the FDIC, the Farm Credit Administration, and the FHFA (each an Agency and, collectively, the Agencies) jointly adopted final rules to establish minimum margin and capital requirements for registered swap dealers, major swap participants, security-based swap dealers, and major security-based swap participants (Swap Entities) that are subject to the jurisdiction of one of the Agencies (such entities, Covered Swap Entities, and the joint final rules, the Final Margin Rules).

 

The Final Margin Rules will subject non-cleared swaps and non-cleared security-based swaps between Covered Swap Entities and Swap Entities, and between Covered Swap Entities and financial end users that have material swaps exposure (i.e., an average daily aggregate notional of $8 billion or more in non-cleared swaps calculated in accordance with the Final Margin Rules), to a mandatory two-way minimum initial margin requirement. The minimum amount of the initial margin required to be posted or collected would be either the amount calculated by the Covered Swap Entity using a standardized schedule set forth as an appendix to the Final Margin Rules, which provides the gross initial margin (as a percentage of total notional exposure) for certain asset classes, or an internal margin model of the Covered Swap Entity conforming to the requirements of the Final Margin Rules that is approved by the Agency having jurisdiction over the particular Covered Swap Entity. The Final Margin Rules specify the types of collateral that may be posted or collected as initial margin for non-cleared swaps and non-cleared security-based swaps with financial end users (generally cash, certain government, government-sponsored enterprise securities, certain liquid debt, certain equity securities, certain eligible publicly traded debt, and gold); and sets forth haircuts for certain collateral asset classes.

 

The Final Margin Rules will require minimum variation margin to be exchanged daily for non-cleared swaps and non-cleared security-based swaps between Covered Swap Entities and Swap Entities and between Covered Swap Entities and all financial end-users (without regard to the swaps exposure of the particular financial end-user). The minimum variation margin amount is the daily mark-to-market change in the value of the swap to the Covered Swap Entity, taking into account variation margin previously posted or collected. For non-cleared swaps and security-based swaps between Covered Swap Entities and financial end-users, variation margin may be posted or collected in cash or non-cash collateral that is considered eligible for initial margin purposes. Variation margin is not subject to segregation with an independent, third-party custodian, and may, if permitted by contract, be rehypothecated.

 

UNG is not a Covered Swap Entity under the Final Margin Rules but it is a financial end-user. Accordingly, UNG will be subject to the variation margin requirements of the Final Margin Rules, which will become effective for UNG on March 1, 2017. However, UNG will not have material swaps exposure and, accordingly, UNG will not be subject to the initial margin requirements of the Final Margin Rules.

 

The CFTC and the SEC are required by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act to adopt their own margin rules. The CFTC’s and SEC’s rules will only apply to a limited number of registered swap dealers, security-based swap dealers, major swap participants, and major security-based swap participants that are not subject to the jurisdiction of one of the Agencies. The CFTC finalized its margin rules on December 16, 2015. The CFTC’s rules are substantially the same as the Final Margin Rules. The SEC has yet to finalize its margin rules.

 

Mandatory Clearing of Swaps

 

Regulations require that certain transactions ultimately falling within the definition of “swap” be executed on organized exchanges or “swap execution facilities” and cleared through regulated clearing organizations (“derivative clearing organizations” (“DCOs”)), if the CFTC mandates the central clearing of a particular contract and such contract is “made available to trade” on a swap execution facility. Currently, swap dealers, major swap participants, commodity pools, certain private funds and entities predominantly engaged in financial activities are required to execute on a swap execution facility, and clear, certain interest rate swaps and index-based credit default swaps. As a result, if UNG enters into any of the interest rate or index-based credit default swaps that are subject to these requirements, such swaps will be required to be executed on a swap execution facility and centrally cleared. Mandatory clearing and “made available to trade” determinations with respect to additional types of swaps are expected in the future, and, when finalized, could require UNG to electronically execute and centrally clear certain OTC instruments presently entered into and settled on a bi-lateral basis. If a swap is required to be cleared, the initial margin will be set by the relevant clearing organization, subject to certain regulatory requirements and guidelines.

 

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Other Requirements for Swaps

 

In addition to the margin requirements described above, swaps that are not required to be cleared and executed on an SEF but that are executed bilaterally are also subject to various requirements pursuant to CFTC regulations, including, among other things, reporting and recordkeeping requirements and, depending on the status of the counterparties, trading documentation requirements and dispute resolution requirements. Other non-U.S. jurisdictions also impose obligations with respect to OTC swaps that could impact USO if it were to engage in OTC swaps with non-U.S. persons.

 

SEC Reports

 

UNG makes available, free of charge, on its website, its annual reports on Form 10-K, its quarterly reports on Form 10-Q, its current reports on Form 8-K and amendments to these reports filed or furnished pursuant to Section 13(a) or 15(d) of the Exchange Act as soon as reasonably practicable after these forms are filed with, or furnished to, the SEC. These reports are also available from the SEC though its website at: www.sec.gov.

 

CFTC Reports

 

UNG also makes available its monthly reports and its annual reports required to be prepared and filed with the NFA under the CFTC regulations.

 

Intellectual Property

 

USCF owns trademark registrations for UNITED STATES NATURAL GAS FUND (U.S. Reg. No. 3407494) for “fund investment services in the field of natural gas Futures Contracts, cash-settled options on natural gas Futures Contracts, forward contracts for natural gas, OTC transactions based on the price of natural gas, and indices based on the foregoing,” in use since April 18, 2007, UNG UNITED STATES NATURAL GAS FUND, LP (and Flame Design) (U.S. Reg. No. 3683574) for “fund investment services in the field of natural gas Futures Contracts, cash-settled options on natural gas Futures Contracts, forward contracts for natural gas, OTC transactions based on the price of natural gas, and indices based on the foregoing,” in use since April 18, 2007 and UNG UNITED STATES NATURAL GAS FUND, LP (and Flame Design) (U.S. Reg. No. 4343873) for “Financial investment services in the field of natural gas Futures Contracts, cash-settled options on natural gas Futures Contracts, forward contracts for natural gas, OTC transactions based on the price of natural gas, and indices based on the foregoing,” in use since September 30, 2012. USCF relies upon these trademarks through which it markets its services and strives to build and maintain brand recognition in the market and among current and potential investors. So long as USCF continues to use these trademarks to identify its services, without challenge from any third party, and properly maintains and renews the trademark registrations under applicable laws, rules and regulations, it will continue to have indefinite protection for these trademarks under current laws, rules and regulations.

 

USCF owns trademark registrations for USCF (U.S. Reg. No. 3638987) for “fund investment services,” in use since June 24, 2008, and USCF UNITED STATES COMMODITY FUNDS LLC & Design (U.S. Reg. No. 4304004) for “fund investment services,” in use since June 24, 2008. USCF relies upon these trademarks through which it markets its services and strives to build and maintain brand recognition in the market and among current and potential investors. So long as USCF continues to use these trademarks to identify its services, without challenge from any third party, and properly maintains and renews the trademark registrations under applicable laws, rules and regulations; it will continue to have indefinite protection for these trademarks under current laws, rules and regulations. USCF has been granted two patents Nos. 7,739,186 and 8,019,675, for systems and methods for an exchange traded fund (ETF) that tracks the price of one or more commodities.

  

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Item 1A. Risk Factors.

 

The following risk factors should be read in connection with the other information included in this annual report on Form 10-K, including Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations and UNG’s financial statements and the related notes.

 

UNG’s investment objective is for the daily percentage change in the NAV per share to reflect the daily percentage changes of the price of natural gas delivered at the Henry Hub, Louisiana, as measured by the daily changes in the price of the Benchmark Futures Contract, plus interest earned on UNG’s collateral holdings, less UNG’s expenses. UNG seeks to achieve its investment objective by investing so that the average daily percentage change in UNG’s NAV for any period of 30 successive valuation days will be within plus/minus ten percent (10%) of the average daily percentage change in the price of the Benchmark Futures Contract over the same period. UNG’s investment strategy is designed to provide investors with a cost-effective way to invest indirectly in natural gas and to hedge against movements in the spot price of natural gas. An investment in UNG involves investment risk similar to a direct investment in Futures Contracts and Other Natural Gas-Related Investments, and correlation risk, or the risk that investors purchasing shares to hedge against movements in the price of natural gas will have an efficient hedge only if the price they pay for their shares closely correlates with the price of natural gas. In addition to investment risk and correlation risk, an investment in UNG involves tax risks, OTC risks and other risks.

 

Investment Risk

 

The net asset value of UNG’s shares relates directly to the value of the Benchmark Futures Contracts and other assets held by UNG and fluctuations in the prices of these assets could materially adversely affect an investment in UNG’s shares.

 

The net assets of UNG consist primarily of investments in Futures Contracts and, to a lesser extent, in Other Natural Gas-Related Investments. The NAV of UNG’s shares relates directly to the value of these assets (less liabilities, including accrued but unpaid expenses), which in turn relates to the price of natural gas in the marketplace. Natural gas prices depend on local, regional and global events or conditions that affect supply and demand for natural gas.

 

Economic conditions impacting natural gas. The demand for natural gas correlates closely with general economic growth rates. The occurrence of recessions or other periods of low or negative economic growth will typically have a direct adverse impact on natural gas demand and therefore may have an adverse impact on natural gas prices.

 

Other natural gas demand-related factors. Other factors that may affect the demand for natural gas and therefore its price, include technological improvements in energy efficiency; seasonal weather patterns, which affect the demand for natural gas associated with heating and cooling; increased competitiveness of alternative energy sources that have so far generally not been competitive with natural gas without the benefit of government subsidies or mandates; and changes in technology or consumer preferences that alter fuel choices, such as toward alternative fueled vehicles.

 

Other natural gas supply-related factors. Natural gas prices also vary depending on a number of factors affecting supply. For example, increased supply from the development of new natural gas sources and technologies to enhance recovery from existing sources tends to reduce natural gas prices to the extent such supply increases are not offset by commensurate growth in demand. Similarly, increases in industry refining or manufacturing capacity may impact the supply of natural gas. Natural gas supply levels can also be affected by factors that reduce available supplies, such as natural disasters, disruptions in competitors’ operations, or unexpected unavailability of distribution channels that may disrupt supplies. Technological change can also alter the relative costs for companies in the natural gas industry to find, produce, and transport natural gas, which in turn, may affect the supply of and demand for natural gas.

 

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Other factors impacting the natural gas market. The supply of and demand for natural gas may also be impacted by changes in interest rates, inflation, and other local or regional market conditions, as well as by the development of alternative energy sources.

 

Price Volatility May Possibly Cause the Total Loss of Your Investment. Futures contracts have a high degree of price variability and are subject to occasional rapid and substantial changes. Consequently, you could lose all or substantially all of your investment in UNG.

 

Correlation Risk

 

Investors purchasing shares to hedge against movements in the price of natural gas will have an efficient hedge only if the price they pay for their shares closely correlates with the price of natural gas. Investing in UNG’s shares for hedging purposes involves the following risks:

 

  · The market price at which the investor buys or sells shares may be significantly less or more than NAV.
  · Daily percentage changes in NAV may not closely correlate with daily percentage changes in the price of the Benchmark Futures Contract.
  · Daily percentage changes in the price of the Benchmark Futures Contract may not closely correlate with daily percentage changes in the price of natural gas.

 

The market price at which investors buy or sell shares may be significantly less or more than net asset value.

 

UNG’s NAV per share will change throughout the day as fluctuations occur in the market value of UNG’s portfolio investments. The public trading price at which an investor buys or sells shares during the day from their broker may be different from the NAV of the shares. Price differences may relate primarily to supply and demand forces at work in the secondary trading market for shares that are closely related to, but not identical to, the same forces influencing the prices of the natural gas and the Benchmark Futures Contract at any point in time. USCF expects that exploitation of certain arbitrage opportunities by Authorized Participants and their clients and customers will tend to cause the public trading price to track NAV per share closely over time, but there can be no assurance of that.

 

The NAV of UNG’s shares may also be influenced by non-concurrent trading hours between the NYSE Arca and the various futures exchanges on which natural gas is traded. While the shares trade on the NYSE Arca from 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time, the trading hours for the futures exchanges on which natural gas trades may not necessarily coincide during all of this time. For example, while the shares trade on the NYSE Arca until 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time, liquidity in the natural gas market will be reduced after the close of the NYMEX at 2:30 p.m. Eastern Time. As a result, during periods when the NYSE Arca is open and the futures exchanges on which natural gas is traded are closed, trading spreads and the resulting premium or discount on the shares may widen and, therefore, increase the difference between the price of the shares and the NAV of the shares.

 

Daily percentage changes in UNG’s net asset value may not correlate with daily percentage changes in the price of the Benchmark Futures Contract.

 

It is possible that the daily percentage changes in UNG’s NAV per share may not closely correlate to daily percentage changes in the price of the Benchmark Futures Contract. Non-correlation may be attributable to disruptions in the market for natural gas, the imposition of position or accountability limits by regulators or exchanges, or other extraordinary circumstances. As UNG approaches or reaches position limits with respect to the Benchmark Futures Contract and other Futures Contracts or in view of market conditions, UNG may begin investing in Other Natural Gas-Related Investments. In addition, UNG is not able to replicate exactly the changes in the price of the Benchmark Futures Contract because the total return generated by UNG is reduced by expenses and transaction costs, including those incurred in connection with UNG’s trading activities, and increased by interest income from UNG’s holdings of Treasury securities. Tracking the Benchmark Futures Contract requires trading of UNG’s portfolio with a view to tracking the Benchmark Futures Contract over time and is dependent upon the skills of USCF and its trading principals, among other factors.

 

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Daily percentage changes in the price of the Benchmark Futures Contract may not correlate with daily percentage changes in the spot price of natural gas.

 

The correlation between changes in prices of the Benchmark Futures Contract and the spot price of natural gas may at times be only approximate. The degree of imperfection of correlation depends upon circumstances such as variations in the speculative natural gas market, supply of and demand for Futures Contracts (including the Benchmark Futures Contract) and Other Natural Gas-Related Investments, and technical influences in natural gas futures trading.

 

Natural forces in the natural gas futures market known as “backwardation” and “contango” may increase UNG’s tracking error and/or negatively impact total return.

 

The design of UNG’s Benchmark Futures Contract is such that every month it begins by using the near month contract to expire until the near month contract is within two weeks of expiration, when, over a four day period, it transitions to the next month contract to expire as its benchmark contract and keeps that contract as its benchmark until it becomes the near month contract and close to expiration. In the event of a natural gas futures market where near month contracts trade at a higher price than next month to expire contracts, a situation described as “backwardation” in the futures market, then absent the impact of the overall movement in natural gas prices the value of the benchmark contract would tend to rise as it approaches expiration. Conversely, in the event of a natural gas futures market where near month contracts trade at a lower price than next month contracts, a situation described as “contango” in the futures market, then absent the impact of the overall movement in natural gas prices the value of the benchmark contract would tend to decline as it approaches expiration. When compared to total return of other price indices, such as the spot price of natural gas, the impact of backwardation and contango may cause the total return of UNG’s per share NAV to vary significantly. Moreover, absent the impact of rising or falling natural gas prices, a prolonged period of contango could have a significant negative impact on UNG’s per share NAV and total return and investors could lose part or all of their investment. See “Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” in this annual report on Form 10-K for a discussion of the potential effects of contango and backwardation.

 

Accountability levels, position limits, and daily price fluctuation limits set by the exchanges have the potential to cause tracking error, which could cause the price of shares to substantially vary from the price of the Benchmark Futures Contract.

 

Designated contract markets, such as the NYMEX, have established accountability levels and position limits on the maximum net long or net short futures contracts in commodity interests that any person or group of persons under common trading control (other than as a hedge, which an investment by UNG is not) may hold, own or control. In addition to accountability levels and position limits, the NYMEX also set daily price fluctuation limits on futures contracts. The daily price fluctuation limit establishes the maximum amount that the price of a futures contract may vary either up or down from the previous day’s settlement price. Once the daily price fluctuation limit has been reached in a particular futures contract, no trades may be made at a price beyond that limit.

 

As discussed above, the CFTC has proposed to adopt the Position Limit Rules, which would impose limits on speculative positions in 25 physical commodity futures and option contracts and swaps that are economically equivalent to such contracts, in the agriculture, energy and metals markets. The Position Limit Rules would, among other things: identify which contracts are subject to speculative position limits; set thresholds that restrict the size of speculative positions that a person may hold in the spot month, other individual months, and all months combined; create an exemption for positions that constitute bona fide hedging transactions; impose responsibilities on DCMs and SEFs to establish position limits or, in some cases, position accountability rules; and apply to both futures and swaps across four relevant venues: OTC, DCMs, SEFs as well as certain non-U.S. located platforms. The CFTC’s first attempt at finalizing the Position Limit Rules, in 2011, was successfully challenged by market participants in 2012 and, since then, the CFTC has re-proposed them and solicited comments from market participants multiple times. At this time, it is unclear how the Position Limit Rules may affect UNG, but the effect may be substantial and adverse. By way of example, the Position Limit Rules may negatively impact the ability of UNG to meet its investment objectives through limits that may inhibit USCF’s ability to sell additional Creation Baskets of UNG. See “The Commodity Interest Markets- Regulation” in this annual report on Form 10-K for additional information.

 

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Until such time as the Position Limit Rules are adopted, the regulatory architecture in effect prior to the adoption of the Position Limit Rules will govern transactions in commodities and related derivatives. Under that system, the CFTC enforces federal limits on speculation in nine agricultural products (e.g., corn, wheat and soy), while futures exchanges establish and enforce position limits and accountability levels for other agricultural products and certain energy products (e.g., oil and natural gas). As a result, UNG may be limited with respect to the size of its investments in any commodities subject to these limits.

 

Under existing and recently adopted CFTC regulations, for the purpose of position limits, a market participant is generally required to comply with the Aggregation Rules which, subject to certain narrow exceptions, require the aggregation of all positions for which the market participant controls the trading decisions with all positions for which the participant has a 10 percent or greater ownership interest in an account or position, as well as the positions of two or more persons acting pursuant to an express or implied agreement or understanding. The Aggregation Rules will also apply with respect to the Position Limit Rules if and when such Position Limit Rules are adopted.

 

All of these limits may potentially cause a tracking error between the price of UNG’s shares and the price of the Benchmark Futures Contract. This may in turn prevent investors from being able to effectively use UNG as a way to hedge against natural gas-related losses or as a way to indirectly invest in natural gas.

 

UNG has not limited the size of its offering and is committed to utilizing substantially all of its proceeds to purchase Futures Contracts and Other Natural Gas-Related Investments. If UNG encounters accountability levels, position limits, or price fluctuation limits for Futures Contracts on the NYMEX, it may then, if permitted under applicable regulatory requirements, purchase Futures Contracts on other exchanges that trade listed natural gas futures or enter into swaps or other transactions to meet its investment objective. In addition, if UNG exceeds accountability levels on either the NYMEX and is required by such exchanges to reduce its holdings, such reduction could potentially cause a tracking error between the price of UNG’s shares and the price of the Benchmark Futures Contract.

 

Tax Risk

 

An investor’s tax liability may exceed the amount of distributions, if any, on its shares.

 

Cash or property will be distributed at the sole discretion of USCF. USCF has not and does not currently intend to make cash or other distributions with respect to shares. Investors will be required to pay U.S. federal income tax and, in some cases, state, local, or foreign income tax, on their allocable share of UNG’s taxable income, without regard to whether they receive distributions or the amount of any distributions. Therefore, the tax liability of an investor with respect to its shares may exceed the amount of cash or value of property (if any) distributed.

 

An investor’s allocable share of taxable income or loss may differ from its economic income or loss on its shares.

 

Due to the application of the assumptions and conventions applied by UNG in making allocations for tax purposes and other factors, an investor’s allocable share of UNG’s income, gain, deduction or loss may be different than its economic profit or loss from its shares for a taxable year. This difference could be temporary or permanent and, if permanent, could result in it being taxed on amounts in excess of its economic income.

 

Items of income, gain, deduction, loss and credit with respect to shares could be reallocated, and for taxable periods beginning after December 31, 2017, UNG could be liable for US. Federal income tax, if the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) does not accept the assumptions and conventions applied by UNG in allocating those items, with potential adverse consequences for an investor.

 

The U.S. tax rules pertaining to partnerships are complex and their application to large, publicly traded partnerships such as UNG is in many respects uncertain. UNG applies certain assumptions and conventions in an attempt to comply with the intent of the applicable rules and to report taxable income, gains, deductions, losses and credits in a manner that properly reflects shareholders’ economic gains and losses. These assumptions and conventions may not fully comply with all aspects of the Internal Revenue Code (the “Code”) and applicable Treasury Regulations, however, and it is possible that the IRS will successfully challenge UNG’s allocation methods and require UNG to reallocate items of income, gain, deduction, loss or credit in a manner that adversely affects investors. If this occurs, investors may be required to file an amended tax return and to pay additional taxes plus deficiency interest.

 

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In addition, for periods beginning after December 31, 2017, UNG may be liable for U.S. federal income tax on any “imputed understatement” of tax resulting from an adjustment as a result of an IRS audit. The amount of the imputed understatement generally includes increases in allocations of items of income or gains to any investor and decreases in allocations of items of deduction, loss, or credit to any investor without any offset for any corresponding reductions in allocations of items of income or gain to any investor or increases in allocations of items of deduction, loss, or credit to any investor. If UNG is required to pay any U.S. federal income taxes on any imputed understatement, the resulting tax liability would reduce the net assets of UNG and would likely have an adverse impact on the value of the shares. Under certain circumstances, UNG may be eligible to make an election to cause the investors to take into account the amount of any imputed understatement, including any interest and penalties. The ability of a publicly traded partnership such as UNG to make this election is uncertain. If the election is made, UNG would be required to provide investors who owned beneficial interests in the shares in the year to which the adjusted allocations relate with a statement setting forth their proportionate shares of the adjustment (“Adjusted K-1s”). The investors would be required to take the adjustment into account in the taxable year in which the Adjusted K-1s are issued. The resulting tax liability on an investor of taking the adjustment into account in the year in which the Adjusted K-1 is issued may be less favorable to the investor than if the adjustment were taken into account in the reviewed year.

 

UNG could be treated as a corporation for federal income tax purposes, which may substantially reduce the value of the shares.

 

UNG has received an opinion of counsel that, under current U.S. federal income tax laws, UNG will be treated as a partnership that is not taxable as a corporation for U.S. federal income tax purposes, provided that (i) at least 90 percent of UNG’s annual gross income will be derived from (a) income and gains from commodities (not held as inventory) or futures, forwards, options, swaps and other notional principal contracts with respect to commodities, and (b) interest income, (ii) UNG is organized and operated in accordance with its governing agreements and applicable law and (iii) UNG does not elect to be taxed as a corporation for federal income tax purposes. Although USCF anticipates that UNG has satisfied and will continue to satisfy the “qualifying income” requirement for all of its taxable years, that result cannot be assured. UNG has not requested and will not request any ruling from the IRS with respect to its classification as a partnership not taxable as a corporation for federal income tax purposes. If the IRS were to successfully assert that UNG is taxable as a corporation for federal income tax purposes in any taxable year, rather than passing through its income, gains, losses and deductions proportionately to shareholders, UNG would be subject to tax on its net income for the year at corporate tax rates. In addition, although USCF does not currently intend to make distributions with respect to shares, any distributions would be taxable to shareholders as dividend income. Taxation of UNG as a corporation could materially reduce the after-tax return on an investment in shares and could substantially reduce the value of the shares.

 

UNG is organized and operated as a limited partnership in accordance with the provisions of the LP Agreement and applicable state law, and therefore, UNG has a more complex tax treatment than traditional mutual funds.

 

UNG is organized and operated as a limited partnership in accordance with the provisions of the LP Agreement and applicable state law. No U.S. federal income tax is paid by UNG on its income. Instead, UNG will furnish shareholders each year with tax information on IRS Schedule K-1 (Form 1065) and each U.S. shareholder is required to report on its U.S. federal income tax return its allocable share of the income, gain, loss and deduction of UNG.

 

This must be reported without regard to the amount (if any) of cash or property the shareholder receives as a distribution from UNG during the taxable year. A shareholder, therefore, may be allocated income or gain by UNG but receive no cash distribution with which to pay the tax liability resulting from the allocation, or may receive a distribution that is insufficient to pay such liability.

 

In addition to federal income taxes, shareholders may be subject to other taxes, such as state and local income taxes, unincorporated business taxes, business franchise taxes and estate, inheritance or intangible taxes that may be imposed by the various jurisdictions in which UNG does business or owns property or where the shareholders reside. Although an analysis of those various taxes is not presented here, each prospective shareholder should consider their potential impact on its investment in UNG. It is each shareholder’s responsibility to file the appropriate U.S. federal, state, local and foreign tax returns.

 

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If UNG is required to withhold tax with respect to any Non-U.S. shareholders, the cost of such withholding may be borne by all shareholders.

 

Under certain circumstances, UNG may be required to pay withholding tax with respect to allocations to Non-U.S. shareholders. Although the LP Agreement provides that any such withholding will be treated as being distributed to the Non-U.S. shareholder, UNG may not be able to cause the economic cost of such withholding to be borne by the Non-U.S. shareholder on whose behalf such amounts were withheld since it does not generally expect to make any distributions. Under such circumstances, the economic cost of the withholding may be borne by all shareholders, not just the shareholders on whose behalf such amounts were withheld. This could have a material impact on the value of the shares.

 

OTC Contract Risk

 

Currently, OTC transactions are subject to changing regulation.

 

A portion of UNG’s assets may be used to trade OTC Natural Gas Interests, such as forward contracts or swap or spot contracts. OTC contracts are typically contracts traded on a principal-to-principal, non-cleared basis through dealer markets that are dominated by major money center and investment banks and other institutions. The markets for OTC contracts rely upon the integrity of market participants in lieu of the additional regulation imposed by the CFTC on participants in the futures markets. While certain regulations adopted over the past several years are intended to provide additional protections to participants in the OTC market, complying with such regulations could have substantial and adverse effects on UNG. See “Item 1. Business – Regulation” for a discussion of how the OTC market will be subject to much more extensive regulatory oversight.

 

UNG will be subject to credit risk with respect to counterparties to OTC contracts entered into by UNG or held by special purpose or structured vehicles.

 

UNG faces the risk of non-performance by the counterparties to the OTC contracts. Unlike in futures contracts, the counterparty to these contracts is generally a single bank or other financial institution, rather than a clearing organization backed by a group of financial institutions. As a result, there will be greater counterparty credit risk in these transactions. A counterparty may not be able to meet its obligations to UNG, in which case UNG could suffer significant losses on these contracts.

 

If a counterparty becomes bankrupt or otherwise fails to perform its obligations due to financial difficulties, UNG may experience significant delays in obtaining any recovery in a bankruptcy or other reorganization proceeding. UNG may obtain only limited recovery or may obtain no recovery in such circumstances.

 

Valuing OTC derivatives may be less certain that actively traded financial instruments.

 

In general, valuing OTC derivatives is less certain than valuing actively traded financial instruments such as exchange traded futures contracts and securities or cleared swaps because the price and terms on which such OTC derivatives are entered into or can be terminated are individually negotiated, and those prices and terms may not reflect the best price or terms available from other sources. In addition, while market makers and dealers generally quote indicative prices or terms for entering into or terminating OTC contracts, they typically are not contractually obligated to do so, particularly if they are not a party to the transaction. As a result, it may be difficult to obtain an independent value for an outstanding OTC derivatives transaction.

 

Other Risks

 

Certain of UNG’s investments could be illiquid, which could cause large losses to investors at any time or from time to time.

 

Futures positions cannot always be liquidated at the desired price. It is difficult to execute a trade at a specific price when there is a relatively small volume of buy and sell orders in a market. A market disruption, such as a foreign government taking political actions that disrupt the market for its currency, its natural gas production or exports, or another major export, can also make it difficult to liquidate a position. Because both Futures Contracts and Other Natural Gas-Related Investments may be illiquid, UNG's Natural Gas Interests may be more difficult to liquidate at favorable prices in periods of illiquid markets and losses may be incurred during the period in which positions are being liquidated. The large size of the positions that UNG may acquire increases the risk of illiquidity both by making its positions more difficult to liquidate and by potentially increasing losses while trying to do so.

 

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OTC contracts that are not subject to clearing may be even less marketable than futures contracts because they are not traded on an exchange, do not have uniform terms and conditions, and are entered into based upon the creditworthiness of the parties and the availability of credit support, such as collateral, and in general, they are not transferable without the consent of the counterparty. These conditions make such contracts less liquid than standardized futures contracts traded on a commodities exchange and could adversely impact UNG’s ability to realize the full value of such contracts. In addition, even if collateral is used to reduce counterparty credit risk, sudden changes in the value of OTC transactions may leave a party open to financial risk due to a counterparty default since the collateral held may not cover a party’s exposure on the transaction in such situations.

 

UNG is not actively managed and tracks the Benchmark Futures Contract during periods in which the price of the Benchmark Futures Contract is flat or declining as well as when the price is rising.

 

UNG is not actively managed by conventional methods. Accordingly, if UNG’s investments in Natural Gas Interests are declining in value, UNG will not close out such positions except in connection with paying the proceeds to an Authorized Participant upon the redemption of a basket or closing out futures positions in connection with the monthly change in the Benchmark Futures Contract. USCF will seek to cause the NAV of UNG’s shares to track the Benchmark Futures Contract during periods in which its price is flat or declining as well as when the price is rising.

 

The NYSE Arca may halt trading in UNG’s shares, which would adversely impact an investor’s ability to sell shares.

 

UNG’s shares are listed for trading on the NYSE Arca under the market symbol “UNG.” Trading in shares may be halted due to market conditions or, in light of NYSE Arca rules and procedures, for reasons that, in the view of the NYSE Arca, make trading in shares inadvisable. In addition, trading is subject to trading halts caused by extraordinary market volatility pursuant to “circuit breaker” rules that require trading to be halted for a specified period based on a specified market decline. Additionally, there can be no assurance that the requirements necessary to maintain the listing of UNG’s shares will continue to be met or will remain unchanged.

 

The liquidity of the shares may also be affected by the withdrawal from participation of Authorized Participants, which could adversely affect the market price of the shares.

 

In the event that one or more Authorized Participants which have substantial interests in the shares withdraw from participation, the liquidity of the shares will likely decrease, which could adversely affect the market price of the shares and result in investors incurring a loss on their investment.

 

Shareholders that are not Authorized Participants may only purchase or sell their shares in secondary trading markets, and the conditions associated with trading in secondary markets may adversely affect investors’ investment in the shares.

 

Only Authorized Participants may create or redeem Redemption Baskets. All other investors that desire to purchase or sell shares must do so through the NYSE Arca or in other markets, if any, in which the shares may be traded. Shares may trade at a premium or discount to NAV per share.

 

The lack of an active trading market for UNG’s shares may result in losses on an investor’s investment in UNG at the time the investor sells the shares.

 

Although UNG’s shares are listed and traded on the NYSE Arca, there can be no guarantee that an active trading market for the shares will be maintained. If an investor needs to sell shares at a time when no active trading market for them exists, the price the investor receives upon sale of the shares, assuming they were able to be sold, likely would be lower than if an active market existed.

 

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Limited partners may have limited liability in certain circumstances, including potentially having liability for the return of wrongful distributions.

 

Under Delaware law, a limited partner might be held liable for UNG’s obligations as if it were a general partner if the limited partner participates in the control of the partnership’s business and the persons who transact business with the partnership think the limited partner is the general partner.

 

A limited partner will not be liable for assessments in addition to its initial capital investment in any of UNG’s shares. However, a limited partner may be required to repay to UNG any amounts wrongfully returned or distributed to it under some circumstances. Under Delaware law, UNG may not make a distribution to limited partners if the distribution causes UNG’s liabilities (other than liabilities to partners on account of their partnership interests and nonrecourse liabilities) to exceed the fair value of UNG’s assets. Delaware law provides that a limited partner who receives such a distribution and knew at the time of the distribution that the distribution violated the law will be liable to the limited partnership for the amount of the distribution for three years from the date of the distribution.

 

The LLC Agreement provides limited authority to the Non-Management Directors, and any Director of USCF may be removed by USCF’s parent company, which is wholly owned by Concierge, a controlled public company where the majority of shares are owned by Nicholas Gerber along with certain family members and certain other shareholders.

 

USCF’s Board of Directors currently consists of four Management Directors, each of whom are executive officers or employees of USCF, and three Non-Management Directors, each of whom are considered independent for purposes of applicable NYSE Arca and SEC rules. Under USCF’s LLC Agreement, the Non-Management Directors have only such authority as the Management Directors expressly confer upon them, which means that the Non-Management Directors may have less authority to control the actions of the Management Directors than is typically the case with the independent members of a company’s Board of Directors. In addition, any Director may be removed by written consent of Wainwright Holdings, Inc. (“Wainwright”), which is the sole member of USCF. The sole shareholder of Wainwright is Concierge Technologies Inc., a company publicly traded under the ticker symbol “CNCG” (“Concierge”). Mr. Nicholas Gerber along with certain family members and certain other shareholders, owns the majority of the shares in Concierge, which is the sole shareholder of Wainwright, the sole member of USCF. Accordingly, although USCF is governed by the USCF Board of Directors, which consists of both Management Directors and Non-Management Directors, pursuant to the LLC Agreement, it is possible for Mr. Gerber to exercise his indirect control of Wainwright to effect the removal of any Director (including the Non-Management Directors which comprise the Audit Committee) and to replace that Director with another Director. Having control in one person could have a negative impact on USCF and UNG, including their regulatory obligations.

 

There is a risk that UNG will not earn trading gains sufficient to compensate for the fees and expenses that it must pay and as such UNG may not earn any profit.

 

UNG pays brokerage charges of approximately 0.10% of average total net assets based on brokerage fees of $3.50 per buy or sell, management fees of 0.60% of NAV on its average net assets of $1,000,000 or less and 0.50% of net asset value on its average net assets that are greater than $1,000,000, and OTC spreads and extraordinary expenses ( e.g., subsequent offering expenses, other expenses not in the ordinary course of business, including the indemnification of any person against liabilities and obligations to the extent permitted by law and required under the LP Agreement and under agreements entered into by USCF on UNG’s behalf and the bringing and defending of actions at law or in equity and otherwise engaging in the conduct of litigation and the incurring of legal expenses and the settlement of claims and litigation) that cannot be quantified.

 

These fees and expenses must be paid in all cases regardless of whether UNG’s activities are profitable. Accordingly, UNG must earn trading gains sufficient to compensate for these fees and expenses before it can earn any profit.

 

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Regulation of the commodity interests and energy markets is extensive and constantly changing; future regulatory developments are impossible to predict but may significantly and adversely affect UNG.

 

The futures markets are subject to comprehensive statutes, regulations, and margin requirements. In addition, the CFTC and futures exchanges are authorized to take extraordinary actions in the event of a market emergency, including, for example, the retroactive implementation of speculative position limits or higher margin requirements, the establishment of daily price limits and the suspension of trading. Regulation of commodity interest transactions in the United States is a rapidly changing area of law and is subject to ongoing modification by governmental and judicial action. Considerable regulatory attention has been focused on non-traditional investment pools that are publicly distributed in the United States. In addition, various national governments outside of the United States have expressed concern regarding the disruptive effects of speculative trading in the energy markets and the need to regulate the derivatives markets in general. The effect of any future regulatory change on UNG is impossible to predict, but it could be substantial and adverse. For a more detailed discussion of the regulations to be imposed by the CFTC and the SEC and the potential impacts thereof on UNG, please see “Item 1. Business – Regulation” in this annual report on Form 10-K.

 

An investment in UNG may provide little or no diversification benefits. Thus, in a declining market, UNG may have no gains to offset losses from other investments, and an investor may suffer losses on an investment in UNG while incurring losses with respect to other asset classes.

 

Historically, Futures Contracts and Other Natural Gas-Related Investments have generally been non-correlated to the performance of other asset classes such as stocks and bonds. Non-correlation means that there is a low statistically valid relationship between the performance of futures and other commodity interest transactions, on the one hand, and stocks or bonds, on the other hand.

 

However, there can be no assurance that such non-correlation will continue during future periods. If, contrary to historic patterns, UNG’s performance were to move in the same general direction as the financial markets, investors will obtain little or no diversification benefits from an investment in UNG’s shares. In such a case, UNG may have no gains to offset losses from other investments, and investors may suffer losses on their investment in UNG at the same time they incur losses with respect to other investments.

 

Variables such as drought, floods, weather, embargoes, tariffs and other political events may have a larger impact on natural gas prices and natural gas-linked instruments, including Futures Contracts and Other Natural Gas-Related Investments, than on traditional securities. These additional variables may create additional investment risks that subject UNG’s investments to greater volatility than investments in traditional securities.

 

Non-correlation should not be confused with negative correlation, where the performance of two asset classes would be opposite of each other. There is no historical evidence that the spot price of natural gas and prices of other financial assets, such as stocks and bonds, are negatively correlated. In the absence of negative correlation, UNG cannot be expected to be automatically profitable during unfavorable periods for the stock market, or vice versa.

 

UNG is not a registered investment company so shareholders do not have the protections of the 1940 Act.

 

UNG is not an investment company subject to the 1940 Act. Accordingly, investors do not have the protections afforded by that statute which, for example, requires investment companies to have a majority of disinterested directors and regulates the relationship between the investment company and its investment manager.

 

Trading in international markets could expose UNG to credit and regulatory risk.

 

UNG invests primarily in Futures Contracts, a significant portion of which are traded on United States exchanges, including the NYMEX. However, a portion of UNG’s trades may take place on markets and exchanges outside the United States. Some non-U.S. markets present risks because they are not subject to the same degree of regulation as their U.S. counterparts. Trading on such non-U.S. markets or exchanges presents risks because they are not subject to the same degree of regulation as their U.S. counterparts, including potentially different or diminished investor protections. In trading contracts denominated in currencies other than U.S. dollars, UNG is subject to the risk of adverse exchange-rate movements between the dollar and the functional currencies of such contracts. Additionally, trading on non-U.S. exchanges is subject to the risks presented by exchange controls, expropriation, increased tax burdens and exposure to local economic declines and political instability. An adverse development with respect to any of these variables could reduce the profit or increase the loss earned on trades in the affected international markets.

 

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UNG and USCF may have conflicts of interest, which may permit them to favor their own interests to the detriment of shareholders.

 

UNG is subject to actual and potential inherent conflicts involving USCF, various commodity futures brokers and Authorized Participants. USCF’s officers, directors and employees do not devote their time exclusively to UNG and also are directors, officers or employees of other entities that may compete with UNG for their services. They could have a conflict between their responsibilities to UNG and to those other entities. As a result of these and other relationships, parties involved with UNG have a financial incentive to act in a manner other than in the best interests of UNG and the shareholders. USCF has not established any formal procedure to resolve conflicts of interest. Consequently, investors are dependent on the good faith of the respective parties subject to such conflicts of interest to resolve them equitably. Although USCF attempts to monitor these conflicts, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, for USCF to ensure that these conflicts do not, in fact, result in adverse consequences to the shareholders.

 

UNG may also be subject to certain conflicts with respect to the FCM, including, but not limited to, conflicts that result from receiving greater amounts of compensation from other clients, or purchasing opposite or competing positions on behalf of third party accounts traded through the FCM. In addition, USCF’s principals, officers, directors or employees may trade futures and related contracts for their own account. A conflict of interest may exist if their trades are in the same markets and at the same time as UNG trades using the clearing broker to be used by UNG. A potential conflict also may occur if USCF’s principals, officers, directors or employees trade their accounts more aggressively or take positions in their accounts which are opposite, or ahead of, the positions taken by UNG.

 

UNG could terminate at any time and cause the liquidation and potential loss of an investor’s investment and could upset the overall maturity and timing of an investor’s investment portfolio.

 

UNG may terminate at any time, regardless of whether UNG has incurred losses, subject to the terms of the LP Agreement. In particular, unforeseen circumstances, including the death, adjudication of incompetence, bankruptcy, dissolution, or removal of USCF as the general partner of UNG could cause UNG to terminate unless a majority interest of the limited partners within 90 days of the event elects to continue the partnership and appoints a successor general partner, or the affirmative vote of a majority in interest of the limited partners subject to certain conditions. However, no level of losses will require USCF to terminate UNG. UNG’s termination would cause the liquidation and potential loss of an investor’s investment. Termination could also negatively affect the overall maturity and timing of an investor’s investment portfolio.

 

UNG does not expect to make cash distributions.

 

UNG has not previously made any cash distributions and intends to reinvest any realized gains in additional Natural Gas Interests rather than distributing cash to limited partners. Therefore, unlike mutual funds, commodity pools or other investment pools that actively manage their investments in an attempt to realize income and gains from their investing activities and distribute such income and gains to their investors, UNG generally does not expect to distribute cash to limited partners. An investor should not invest in UNG if the investor will need cash distributions from UNG to pay taxes on its share of income and gains of UNG, if any, or for any other reason. Nonetheless, although UNG does not intend to make cash distributions, the income earned from its investments held directly or posted as margin may reach levels that merit distribution, e.g., at levels where such income is not necessary to support its underlying investments in Natural Gas Interests and investors adversely react to being taxed on such income without receiving distributions that could be used to pay such tax. If this income becomes significant then cash distributions may be made.

 

An unanticipated number of redemption requests during a short period of time could have an adverse effect on UNG’s net asset value.

 

If a substantial number of requests for redemption of Redemption Baskets are received by UNG during a relatively short period of time, UNG may not be able to satisfy the requests from UNG’s assets not committed to trading. As a consequence, it could be necessary to liquidate positions in UNG’s trading positions before the time that the trading strategies would otherwise dictate liquidation.

 

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Money Market Reform

 

The SEC adopted Rule 2a-7 under the 1940 Act on July 23, 2014, which became effective on October 14, 2016, to reform money market funds (“MMFs”). While the new rule applies only to MMFs, it may indirectly affect institutional investors such as UNG. The new rule requires institutional prime MMFs to price their shares using market-based values instead of the amortized cost method (i.e., to use a “floating net asset value per share” or “floating NAV”). Government and retail funds can continue to use the amortized cost method to value their portfolio securities. Additionally, liquidity fees and gates allowing an MMF’s board of directors to directly address runs on a fund. MMFs’ boards of directors are required to implement rules to discourage and prevent runs by investors through the use of redemption fees and gates (temporary suspension of redemptions). The fees and gates could be imposed on a fund whose portfolios fail to meet certain liquidity thresholds although they are optional for government MMFs. UNG currently invests in government MMFs, as well as Treasuries with a maturity date of two years or less, as an investment for assets not used for margin or collateral in the Futures Contracts. UNG does not hold any non-government MMFs and, currently, does not anticipate investing in any non-government MMFs. The new rule further decreases the likelihood that UNG would invest in any non-governmental MMFs. However, if UNG were to make investments in non-government MMFs in the future, such investments could negatively impact UNG because of the changes to MMFs resulting from the new rule.

 

The failure or bankruptcy of a clearing broker could result in a substantial loss of UNG’s assets and could impair UNG in its ability to execute trades.

 

In the event of the bankruptcy of a clearing broker or an Exchange’s clearing house, UNG could be exposed to a risk of loss with respect to its assets that are posted as margin. If such a bankruptcy were to occur, UNG would be afforded the protections granted to customers of an FCM, and participants to transactions cleared through a clearing house, under the United States Bankruptcy Code and applicable CFTC regulations. Such provisions generally provide for a pro rata distribution to customers of customer property held by the bankrupt FCM or an Exchange’s clearing house if the customer property held by the FCM or the Exchange’s clearing house is insufficient to satisfy all customer claims. In any case, there can be no assurance that these protections will be effective in allowing UNG to recover all, or even any, of the amounts it has deposited as margin.

 

Bankruptcy of a clearing FCM can be caused by, among other things, the default of one of the FCM’s customers. In this event, the Exchange’s clearing house is permitted to use the entire amount of margin posted by UNG (as well as margin posted by other customers of the FCM) to cover the amounts owed by the bankrupt FCM. Consequently, UNG could be unable to recover amounts due to it on its futures positions, including assets posted as margin, and could sustain substantial losses.

 

On January 13, 2014, new regulations became effective relating to enhanced customer protections, risk management programs, internal monitoring and controls, capital and liquidity standards, customer disclosures and auditing and 20 examination programs for FCMs. There can be no assurance that the implementation of these regulations will prevent losses to, or not materially adversely affect, UNG or its investors.

 

Notwithstanding that UNG could sustain losses upon the failure or bankruptcy of its FCM, the majority of UNG’s assets are held in Treasuries, cash and/or cash equivalents with the Custodian and would not be impacted by the bankruptcy of an FCM. 

 

The failure or bankruptcy of UNG’s Custodian could result in a substantial loss of UNG’s assets.

 

The majority of UNG’s assets are held in Treasuries, cash and/or cash equivalents with the Custodian. The insolvency of the Custodian could result in a complete loss of UNG’s assets held by that Custodian, which, at any given time, would likely comprise a substantial portion of UNG’s total assets.

 

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Third parties may infringe upon or otherwise violate intellectual property rights or assert that USCF has infringed or otherwise violated their intellectual property rights, which may result in significant costs and diverted attention.

 

It is possible that third parties might utilize UNG’s intellectual property or technology, including the use of its business methods, trademarks and trading program software, without permission. USCF has a patent for UNG’s business method and has registered its trademarks. UNG does not currently have any proprietary software. However, if it obtains proprietary software in the future, any unauthorized use of UNG’s proprietary software and other technology could also adversely affect its competitive advantage. UNG may not have adequate resources to implement procedures for monitoring unauthorized uses of its patents, trademarks, proprietary software and other technology. Also, third parties may independently develop business methods, trademarks or proprietary software and other technology similar to that of USCF or claim that USCF has violated their intellectual property rights, including their copyrights, trademark rights, trade names, trade secrets and patent rights. As a result, USCF may have to litigate in the future to protect its trade secrets, determine the validity and scope of other parties’ proprietary rights, defend itself against claims that it has infringed or otherwise violated other parties’ rights, or defend itself against claims that its rights are invalid. Any litigation of this type, even if USCF is successful and regardless of the merits, may result in significant costs, divert its resources from UNG, or require it to change its proprietary software and other technology or enter into royalty or licensing agreements.

 

Due to the increased use of technologies, intentional and unintentional cyber-attacks pose operational and information security risks.

 

With the increased use of technologies such as the Internet and the dependence on computer systems to perform necessary business functions, UNG is susceptible to operational and information security risks. In general, cyber incidents can result from deliberate attacks or unintentional events. Cyber-attacks include, but are not limited to, gaining unauthorized access to digital systems for purposes of misappropriating assets or sensitive information, corrupting data, or causing operational disruption. Cyber-attacks may also be carried out in a manner that does not require gaining unauthorized access, such as causing denial-of-service attacks on websites. Cyber security failures or breaches of UNG’s clearing broker or third party service provider (including, but not limited to, index providers, the administrator and transfer agent, the custodian), have the ability to cause disruptions and impact business operations, potentially resulting in financial losses, the inability of UNG shareholders to transact business, violations of applicable privacy and other laws, regulatory fines, penalties, reputational damage, reimbursement or other compensation costs, and/or additional compliance costs.

 

In addition, substantial costs may be incurred in order to prevent any cyber incidents in the future. UNG and its shareholders could be negatively impacted as a result. While UNG has established business continuity plans, there are inherent limitations in such plans.

 

Item 1B. Unresolved Staff Comments.

 

Not applicable.

 

Item 2. Properties.

 

Not applicable.

 

Item 3. Legal Proceedings.

 

Although UNG may, from time to time, be involved in litigation arising out of its operations in the normal course of business or otherwise, UNG is currently not a party to any pending material legal proceedings.

 

Item 4. Mine Safety Disclosures.

 

Not applicable.

 

Part II

 

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Item 5. Market for Registrant’s Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities.

 

Price Range of Shares

 

UNG’s shares have traded on the NYSE Arca under the symbol “UNG” since November 25, 2008. Prior to trading on the NYSE Arca, UNG’s shares traded on the AMEX under the symbol “UNG” since its initial public offering on April 18, 2007. The following table sets forth the range of reported high and low sales prices of the shares as reported on the AMEX and NYSE Arca, as applicable, for the periods indicated below.

 

   High   Low 
Fiscal year 2016          
First quarter  $9.21   $5.79 
Second quarter  $8.64   $6.45 
Third quarter  $8.99   $7.60 
Fourth quarter  $9.63   $7.01 

 

   High   Low 
Fiscal year 2015          
First quarter  $16.68   $13.17 
Second quarter  $14.90   $12.39 
Third quarter  $14.01   $11.61 
Fourth quarter  $11.67   $6.92 

 

As of December 31, 2016, UNG had approximately 111,829 holders of shares.

 

Dividends

 

UNG has not made and does not currently intend to make cash distributions to its shareholders.

 

Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities

 

UNG does not purchase shares directly from its shareholders. In connection with its redemption of baskets held by Authorized Participants, UNG redeemed 546 baskets (comprising 54,600,000 shares) and 970 baskets (comprising 97,000,000 shares) for the three and twelve months ended December 31, 2016, respectively. Monthly redemptions for last three months are detailed below.

 

Period  Total Number of Shares
Redeemed
   Average Price Per Share 
10/1/16 to 10/31/16   11,800,000   $8.89 
11/1/16 to 11/30/16   10,200,000   $7.83 
12/1/16 to 12/31/16   32,600,000   $9.10 
Total   54,600,000      

 

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Item 6. Selected Financial Data.

 

Financial Highlights (for the years ended December 31, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013 and 2012)

 

(Dollar amounts in 000’s except for per share information)

 

   Year ended
December 31,
2016
   Year ended
December 31,
2015
   Year ended
December 31,
2014
   Year ended
December 31,
2013
   Year ended
December 31,
2012
 
                     
Total assets  $610,073   $580,803   $652,131   $955,316   $1,246,283 
Net realized and unrealized gain (loss) on futures transactions, inclusive of commissions  $100,873   $(240,358)  $(203,735)  $153,897   $(212,777)
Net realized and unrealized gain (loss) on swap contracts  $-   $-   $32,345   $10,460   $(66,191)
Net income (loss)  $98,732   $(245,141)  $(177,150)  $157,100   $(286,166)
Weighted-average limited partnership shares   70,479,591    49,197,161    32,150,038    48,892,503    53,045,948 
Net gain (loss) per share  $0.60   $(5.94)  $(5.96)  $1.72   $(7.01)
Net gain (loss) per weighted average share  $1.40   $(4.98)  $(5.51)  $3.21   $(5.39)
Cash and cash equivalents at end of year  $522,820   $453,830   $589,867   $792,446   $1,100,511 

 

Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations.

 

The following discussion should be read in conjunction with the financial statements and the notes thereto of UNG included elsewhere in this annual report on Form 10-K.

 

Forward-Looking Information

 

This annual report on Form 10-K, including this “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations,” contains forward-looking statements regarding the plans and objectives of management for future operations. This information may involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors that may cause UNG’s actual results, performance or achievements to be materially different from future results, performance or achievements expressed or implied by any forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements, which involve assumptions and describe UNG’s future plans, strategies and expectations, are generally identifiable by use of the words “may,” “will,” “should,” “expect,” “anticipate,” “estimate,” “believe,” “intend” or “project,” the negative of these words, other variations on these words or comparable terminology. These forward-looking statements are based on assumptions that may be incorrect, and UNG cannot assure investors that the projections included in these forward-looking statements will come to pass. UNG’s actual results could differ materially from those expressed or implied by the forward-looking statements as a result of various factors.

 

UNG has based the forward-looking statements included in this annual report on Form 10-K on information available to it on the date of this annual report on Form 10-K, and UNG assumes no obligation to update any such forward-looking statements. Although UNG undertakes no obligation to revise or update any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, investors are advised to consult any additional disclosures that UNG may make directly to them or through reports that UNG in the future files with the SEC, including annual reports on Form 10-K, quarterly reports on Form 10-Q and current reports on Form 8-K.

 

Introduction

 

UNG, a Delaware limited partnership, is a commodity pool that issues shares that may be purchased and sold on the NYSE Arca. The investment objective of UNG is for the daily changes in percentage terms of its shares’ per share NAV to reflect the daily changes, in percentage terms, of the price of natural gas delivered at the Henry Hub, Louisiana, as measured by the daily changes, in the price of a specified short-term futures contract on natural gas traded on the NYMEX that is the near month contract to expire, except when the near month contract is within two weeks of expiration, in which case it will be measured by the futures contract that is the next month contract to expire (the “Benchmark Futures Contract”), plus interest earned on UNG’s Collateral holdings, less UNG’s expenses. “Near month contract” means the next contract traded on the NYMEX due to expire. “Next month contract” means the first contract traded on the NYMEX due to expire after the near month contract.

 

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UNG’s investment objective is not for its NAV or market price of shares to equal, in dollar terms, the spot price of natural gas or any particular futures contract based on natural gas, nor is UNG’s investment objective for the percentage change in its NAV to reflect the percentage change of the price of any particular futures contract as measured over a time period greater than one day. USCF believes that it is not practical to manage the portfolio to achieve such an investment goal when investing in natural gas Futures Contracts and Other Natural Gas-Related Investments.

 

UNG seeks to achieve its investment objective by investing so that the average daily percentage change in UNG’s NAV for any period of 30 successive valuation days will be within plus/minus ten percent (10%) of the average daily percentage change in the price of the Benchmark Futures Contract over the same period.

 

The regulation of commodity interest trading in the United States and other countries is an evolving area of the law. The various statements made in this summary are subject to modification by legislative action and changes in the rules and regulations of the SEC, FINRA, CFTC, the NFA, the futures exchanges, clearing organizations and other regulatory bodies. Pending final resolution of all applicable regulatory requirements, some examples of how new rules and regulations could impact UNG are discussed in “Item 1. Business” and “Item 1A. Risk Factor” in this annual report on Form 10-K.

 

Price Movements

 

Natural gas futures prices were volatile during the year ended December 31, 2016 and exhibited moderate daily swings along with an uneven upward trend during the year. The price of the Benchmark Futures Contract started the year at $2.337 per million British thermal units (“MMBtu”). The high of the year was on December 28, 2016, when the price reached $3.898 per MMBtu. The low of the year was on March 3, 2016, when the price dropped to $1.639 per MMBtu. The year ended with the Benchmark Futures Contract at $3.724 per MMBtu, up approximately 59.35% over the year. UNG’s per share NAV began the year at $8.69 and ended the year at $9.29 on December 31, 2016, an increase of approximately 6.90% over the year. UNG’s per share NAV reached its high for the year on December 28, 2016 at $9.73 and reached its low for the year on March 3, 2016 at $5.81. The Benchmark Futures Contract prices listed above began with the February 2016 contracts and ended with the February 2017 contracts. The increase of approximately 6.90% on the Benchmark Futures Contract listed above is a hypothetical return only and could not actually be achieved by an investor holding natural gas Futures Contracts. An investment in natural gas Futures Contracts would need to be rolled forward during the time period described in order to simulate such a result. Furthermore, the change in the nominal price of these differing natural gas Futures Contracts, measured from the start of the year to the end of the year, does not represent the actual benchmark results that UNG seeks to track, which are more fully described below in the section titled “Tracking UNG’s Benchmark.”

 

During the year ended December 31, 2016, the natural gas futures market was predominantly in contango. During periods of contango, the price of the near month natural gas Futures Contract was typically lower than the price of the next month natural gas Futures Contract, or contracts further away from expiration. On days when the market was in backwardation, the price of the near month natural gas Futures Contract was typically higher than the price of the next month natural gas Futures Contract, or contracts further away from expiration. For a discussion of the impact of contango and backwardation on total returns, see “Term Structure of Natural Gas Futures Prices and the Impact on Total Returns” below.

 

Valuation of Futures Contracts and the Computation of the Per Share NAV

 

The per share NAV of UNG’s shares is calculated once each NYSE Arca trading day. The per share NAV for a particular trading day is released after 4:00 p.m. New York time. Trading during the core trading session on the NYSE Arca typically closes at 4:00 p.m. New York time. The Administrator uses the NYMEX closing price (determined at the earlier of the close of the NYMEX or 2:30 p.m. New York time) for the contracts held on the NYMEX, but calculates or determines the value of all other UNG investments, including cleared swaps or other futures contracts, as of the earlier of the close of the NYSE Arca or 4:00 p.m. New York time.

 

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Results of Operations and the Natural Gas Market

 

Results of Operations. On April 18, 2007, UNG listed its shares on the AMEX under the ticker symbol “UNG.” On that day, UNG established its initial offering price at $50.00 per share and issued 200,000 shares to the initial authorized purchaser in exchange for $10,000,000 in cash. As a result of the acquisition of the AMEX by NYSE Euronext, UNG’s shares ceased trading on the AMEX and commenced trading on the NYSE Arca on November 25, 2008.

 

Since its initial offering of 30,000,000 shares, UNG has registered six subsequent offerings of its shares: 50,000,000 shares which were registered with the SEC on November 21, 2007, 100,000,000 shares which were registered with the SEC on August 28, 2008, 300,000,000 shares which were registered with the SEC on May 6, 2009, 1,000,000,000 shares were registered with the SEC on August 12, 2009, 200,000,000 shares were registered on March 12, 2014 and 200,000,000 shares were registered on April 28, 2015. Shares offered by UNG in the subsequent offerings were sold by it for cash at the shares’ per share NAV as described in the applicable prospectus. On March 8, 2011, after the close of trading on the NYSE Arca, UNG effected a 2-for-1 reverse share split and post-split shares of UNG began trading on March 9, 2011. As a result of the reverse share split, every two pre-split shares of UNG were automatically exchanged for one post-split share. Immediately prior to the reverse share split, there were 447,200,000 shares of UNG issued and outstanding, representing a per share NAV of $5.16. Immediately after the reverse share split, the number of issued and outstanding shares of UNG decreased to 223,600,000, not accounting for fractional shares, and the per share NAV increased to $10.31. On February 21, 2012, after the close of trading on the NYSE Arca, UNG effected a 4-for-1 reverse share split and post-split shares of UNG began trading on February 22, 2012. As a result of the reverse share split, every four pre-split shares of UNG were automatically exchanged for one post-split share. Immediately prior to the reverse share split, there were 174,297,828 shares of UNG issued and outstanding, representing a per share NAV of $5.51. Immediately after the reverse share split, the number of issued and outstanding shares of UNG decreased to 43,574,457, not accounting for fractional shares, and the per share NAV increased to $22.04. As of December 31, 2016, UNG had issued 1,701,300,000 shares, 57,866,476 of which were outstanding. As of December 31, 2016, there were 178,700,000 shares registered but not yet issued.

 

More shares may have been issued by UNG than are outstanding due to the redemption of shares. Unlike funds that are registered under the 1940 Act, as amended, shares that have been redeemed by UNG cannot be resold by UNG. As a result, UNG contemplates that additional offerings of its shares will be registered with the SEC in the future in anticipation of additional issuances and redemptions.

 

As of December 31, 2016, UNG had the following Authorized Participants: ABN Amro, BNP Paribas Prime Brokerage, Inc., BNP Paribas Securities Corp., Citadel Securities LLC, Citigroup Global Markets Inc., Credit Suisse Securities USA LLC, Deutsche Bank Securities Inc., Goldman Sachs & Company, Goldman Sachs Execution & Clearing LP, JP Morgan Securities Inc., Merrill Lynch Professional Clearing Corp., Morgan Stanley & Company LLC, Nomura Securities International Inc., RBC Capital Markets LLC, SG Americas Securities LLC, Virtu Financial Capital Markets, and Virtu Financial BD LLC.

 

For the Year Ended December 31, 2016 Compared to the Year Ended December 31, 2015; and for the Year Ended December 31, 2015, Compared to the Year Ended December 31, 2014

  

   For the Year
Ended
December 31, 2016
   For the Year
Ended
December 31, 2015
   For the Year
Ended
December 31, 2014
 
Per share net asset value, end of period  $9.29   $8.69   $14.63 
Average daily total net assets  $543,962,913   $607,593,459   $722,787,861 
Dividend and interest income earned on Treasuries, cash and/or cash equivalents  $1,824,785   $404,960   $275,530 
Annualized yield based on average daily total net assets   0.34%   0.07%   0.04%
Management fee  $3,263,777   $3,645,561   $4,336,707 
Total fees and other expenses excluding management fees  $2,835,837   $4,070,108   $3,936,961 
Fees and expenses related to the registration or offering of additional shares  $404,792   $379,106   $238,716 
Total commissions accrued to brokers  $2,000,888   $2,371,433   $2,001,949 
Total commissions as annualized percentage of average total net assets   0.37%   0.39%   0.28%
Commissions accrued as a result of rebalancing  $1,872,019   $2,089,974   $1,623,581 
Percentage of commissions accrued as a result of rebalancing   93.56%   88.13%   81.10%
Commissions accrued as a result of creation and redemption activity  $128,869   $281,459   $378,368 
Percentage of commissions accrued as a result of creation and redemption activity   6.44%   11.87%   18.90%

 

Portfolio Expenses. UNG’s expenses consist of investment management fees, brokerage fees and commissions, certain offering costs, licensing fees, the fees and expenses of the independent directors of USCF and expenses relating to tax accounting and reporting requirements. The management fee that UNG pays to USCF is calculated as a percentage of the total net assets of UNG. The fee is accrued daily and paid monthly.

 

The increase in the per share NAV for the year ended December 31, 2016, compared to the year ended December 31, 2015, was due primarily to higher prices for natural gas and the related increase in the value of the natural gas futures contracts in which UNG invested; and the decrease in the per share NAV for the year ended December 31, 2015, compared to the year ended December 31, 2014, was primarily due to lower prices for natural gas and the related decrease in the value of natural gas futures contracts in which UNG invested.

 

Average interest rates on short-term investments held by UNG, including cash equivalents and Treasuries, were higher during the year ended December 31, 2016, compared to the years ended December 31, 2015; and were similar during the year ended December 31, 2015, compared to the year ended December 31, 2014. As a result, the amount of income earned by UNG as a percentage of average daily total net assets was higher during the year ended December 31, 2016 compared to the year ended December 31, 2015 and was similar during the year ended December 31, 2015, compared to the year ended December 31, 2014. To the degree that the aggregate yield is higher, the net expense ratio, inclusive of income, will be lower.

 

The increase in total fees and expenses excluding management fees for the year ended December 31, 2016, compared to the year ended December 31, 2015, was primarily due to an increase in variable total fees and expenses; and the increase in total fees and expenses excluding management fees for the year ended December 31, 2015, compared to year ended December 31, 2014, was primarily due to an increase in variable total fees and expenses.

 

The decrease in the total commissions accrued to brokers for the year ended December 31, 2016, compared to the year ended December 31, 2015 was a result of decreased brokerage fees due to a lower number of natural gas contracts held and traded; and the increase for the year ended December 31, 2015, compared to December 31, 2014, was a result of increased brokerage fees due to a higher number of natural gas futures held and traded.

 

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For the Three Months Ended December 31, 2016 Compared to the Three Months Ended December 31, 2015; and for the Three Months Ended December 31, 2015 Compared to the Three Months Ended December 31, 2014

 

   For the three 
months ended
December 31,
2016
   For the three
months ended
December 31,
2015
   For the three
months ended
December 31,
2014
 
Per share net asset value, end of period  $9.29   $8.69   $14.63 
Average daily total net assets  $593,421,337   $533,434,109   $703,081,513 
Dividend and interest income earned on Treasuries, cash and/or cash equivalents  $576,169   $163,878   $66,231 
Annualized yield based on average daily total net assets   0.39%   0.12%   0.04%
Management fee  $894,996   $806,728   $1,063,291 
Total fees and other expenses excluding management fees  $704,261   $797,704   $829,455 
Fees and expenses related to the registration or offering of additional shares  $101,751   $101,751   $74,830 
Total commissions accrued to brokers  $474,391   $601,225   $516,764 
Total commissions as annualized percentage of average total net assets   0.32%   0.45%   0.29%
Commissions accrued as a result of rebalancing  $400,782   $545,019   $423,919 
Percentage of commissions accrued as a result of rebalancing   84.48%   90.65%   82.03%
Commissions accrued as a result of creation and redemption activity  $73,609   $56,206   $92,845 
Percentage of commissions accrued as a result of creation and redemption activity   15.52%   9.35%   17.97%

 

The increase in the per share NAV for the three months ended December 31, 2016, compared to the three months ended December 31, 2015, was primarily due to the higher prices for natural gas and the related increase in the value of the natural gas futures contracts in which UNG invested; and the decrease in the per share NAV for the three months ended December 31, 2015, compared to the three months ended December 31, 2014, was primarily due to the lower prices for natural gas and the related decrease in the value of the natural gas futures contracts in which UNG invested.

 

Average interest rates on short-term investments held by UNG, including cash, cash equivalents and Treasuries, were higher during the three months ended December 31, 2016, compared to the three months ended December 31, 2015; and were higher for the three months ended December 31, 2015, compared to the three months ended December 31, 2014. As a result, the amount of income earned by UNG as a percentage of average daily total net assets was higher for the three months ended December 31, 2016 compared to the three months ended December 31, 2015; and was higher for the three months ended December 31, 2015 compared to the three months ended December 31, 2014. To the degree that the aggregate yield is higher, the net expense ratio, inclusive of income, will be lower.

 

The decrease in total fees and other expenses excluding management fees for the three months ended December 31, 2016, compared to the three months ended December 31, 2015 was primarily due to a decrease in variable total fees and expenses; and the decrease for the three months ended December 31, 2015, compared to the three months ended December 31, 2014, was primarily due to a decrease in variable fees and expenses resulting from UNG’s smaller size as measured by total net assets.

  

The decrease in the total commissions accrued to brokers for the three months ended December 31, 2016, compared to the three months ended December 31, 2015 was a result of decreased brokerage fees due to lower number of natural gas future contracts being held and traded; and the increase for the three months ended December 31, 2015, compared to the three months ended December 31, 2014, was a result of increased brokerage fees due to higher number of natural gas futures contracts being held and traded.

 

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Tracking UNG’s Benchmark. USCF seeks to manage UNG’s portfolio such that changes in its average daily per share NAV, on a percentage basis, closely track the daily changes in the average price of the Benchmark Futures Contract, also on a percentage basis. Specifically, USCF seeks to manage the portfolio such that over any rolling period of 30 valuation days, the average daily change in UNG’s per share NAV is within a range of 90% to 110% (0.9 to 1.1) of the average daily change in the price of the Benchmark Futures Contract. As an example, if the average daily movement of the price of the Benchmark Futures Contract for a particular 30-valuation day time period was 0.50% per day, USCF would attempt to manage the portfolio such that the average daily movement of the per share NAV during that same time period fell between 0.45% and 0.55% (i.e., between 0.9 and 1.1 of the benchmark’s results). UNG’s portfolio management goals do not include trying to make the nominal price of UNG’s per share NAV equal to the nominal price of the current Benchmark Futures Contract or the spot price for natural gas. USCF believes that it is not practical to manage the portfolio to achieve such an investment goal when investing in natural gas Futures Contracts and Other Natural Gas-Related Investments.

 

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For the 30 valuation days ended December 31, 2016, the simple average daily change in the Benchmark Futures Contract was 0.823%, while the simple average daily change in the per share NAV of UNG over the same time period was 0.816%. The average daily difference was (0.007)% (or (0.7) basis points, where 1 basis point equals 1/100 of 1%). As a percentage of the daily movement of the Benchmark Futures Contract, the average error in daily tracking by the per share NAV was (0.094)%, meaning that over this time period UNG’s tracking error was within the plus or minus 10% range established as its benchmark tracking goal. The first chart below shows the daily movement of UNG’s per share NAV versus the daily movement of the Benchmark Futures Contract for the 30-valuation day period ended December 31, 2016, the last trading day in December. The second chart below shows the monthly total returns of UNG as compared to the monthly value of the Benchmark Futures Contract for the five years ended December 31, 2016.

 

Since the commencement of the offering of UNG shares to the public on April 18, 2007 to December 31, 2015, the simple average daily change in the Benchmark Futures Contract was (0.113)%, while the simple average daily change in the per share NAV of UNG over the same time period was (0.114)%. The average daily difference was (0.001)% (or (0.1) basis points, where 1 basis point equals 1/100 of 1%). As a percentage of the daily movement of the Benchmark Futures Contract, the average error in daily tracking by the per share NAV was (0.482)%, meaning that over this time period UNG’s tracking error was within the plus or minus 10% range established as its benchmark tracking goal.

 

 

*PAST PERFORMANCE IS NOT NECESSARILY INDICATIVE OF FUTURE RESULTS

 

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*PAST PERFORMANCE IS NOT NECESSARILY INDICATIVE OF FUTURE RESULTS

 

An alternative tracking measurement of the return performance of UNG versus the return of its Benchmark Futures Contract can be calculated by comparing the actual return of UNG, measured by changes in its NAV, versus the expected changes in its per share NAV under the assumption that UNG’s returns had been exactly the same as the daily changes in its Benchmark Futures Contract.

 

For the year ended December 31, 2016, the actual total return of UNG as measured by changes in its per share NAV was 6.90%. This is based on an initial per share NAV of $8.69 on December 31, 2015 and an ending per share NAV as of December 31, 2016 of $9.29. During this time period, UNG made no distributions to its shareholders. However, if UNG’s daily changes in its per share NAV had instead exactly tracked the changes in the daily total return of the Benchmark Futures Contract, UNG would have had an estimated per share NAV of $9.38 as of December 31, 2016, for a total return over the relevant time period of 7.94%. The difference between the actual per share NAV total return of UNG of 6.90% and the expected total return based on the Benchmark Futures Contract of 7.94% was an error over the time period of (1.04)%, which is to say that UNG’s actual total return underperformed the benchmark result by that percentage. UNG incurs expenses primarily composed of the management fee, brokerage commissions for the buying and selling of futures contracts, and other expenses, The impact of these expenses tends to cause daily changes in the per share NAV of UNG to track slightly lower than daily changes in the price of the Benchmark Futures Contract. 

 

By comparison, for the year ended December 31, 2015, the actual total return of UNG as measured by changes in its per share NAV was (40.60)%. This was based on an initial per share NAV of $14.63 on December 31, 2014 and an ending per share NAV as of December 31, 2015 of $8.69. During this time period, UNG made no distributions to its shareholders. However, if UNG’s daily changes in its per share NAV had instead exactly tracked the changes in the daily total return of the Benchmark Futures Contract, UNG would have had an estimated per share NAV of $8.81 as of December 31, 2015, for a total return over the relevant time period of (39.78)%. The difference between the actual per share NAV total return of UNG of (40.60)% and the expected total return based on the Benchmark Futures Contract of (39.78)% was an error over the time period of (0.82)%, which is to say that UNG’s actual total return underperformed the benchmark result by that percentage. UNG incurs expenses primarily composed of the management fee, brokerage commissions for the buying and selling of futures contracts, and other expenses, The impact of these expenses tended to cause daily changes in the per share NAV of UNG to track slightly lower than daily changes in the price of the Benchmark Futures Contract.

 

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By comparison, for the year ended December 31, 2014, the actual total return of UNG as measured by changes in its per share NAV was (28.95)%. This was based on an initial per share NAV of $20.59 on December 31, 2013 and an ending per share NAV as of December 31, 2014 of $14.63. During this time period, UNG made no distributions to its shareholders. However, if UNG’s daily changes in its per share NAV had instead exactly tracked the changes in the daily total return of the Benchmark Futures Contract, UNG would have had an estimated per share NAV of $14.83 as of December 31, 2014, for a total return over the relevant time period (27.97)%. The difference between the actual per share NAV total return of UNG of (28.95)% and the expected total return based on the Benchmark Futures Contract of (27.97)% was an error over the time period of (0.98)%, which is to say that UNG’s actual total return underperformed the benchmark result by that percentage. UNG incurs expenses primarily composed of the management fee, brokerage commissions for the buying and selling of futures contracts, and other expenses. The impact of these expenses tended to cause daily changes in the per share NAV of UNG to track slightly lower than daily changes in the price of the Benchmark Oil Futures Contract.

  

There are currently three factors that have impacted or are most likely to impact UNG’s ability to accurately track its Benchmark Futures Contract.

 

First, UNG may buy or sell its holdings in the then current Benchmark Futures Contract at a price other than the closing settlement price of that contract on the day during which UNG executes the trade. In that case, UNG may pay a price that is higher, or lower, than that of the Benchmark Futures Contract, which could cause the changes in the daily per share NAV of UNG to either be too high or too low relative to the daily changes in the Benchmark Futures Contract. During the year ended December 31, 2016, USCF attempted to minimize the effect of these transactions by seeking to execute its purchase or sale of the Benchmark Futures Contract at, or as close as possible to, the end of the day settlement price. However, it may not always be possible for UNG to obtain the closing settlement price and there is no assurance that failure to obtain the closing settlement price in the future will not adversely impact UNG’s attempt to track the Benchmark Futures Contract over time.

 

Second, UNG incurs expenses primarily composed of the management fee, brokerage commissions for the buying and selling of futures contracts, and other expenses. The impact of these expenses tends to cause daily changes in the per share NAV of UNG to track slightly lower than daily changes in the price of the Benchmark Futures Contract. At the same time, UNG earns dividend and interest income on its cash, cash equivalents and Treasuries. UNG is not required to distribute any portion of its income to its shareholders and did not make any distributions to shareholders during the year ended December 31, 2016. Interest payments, and any other income, were retained within the portfolio and added to UNG’s NAV. When this income exceeds the level of UNG’s expenses for its management fee, brokerage commissions and other expenses (including ongoing registration fees, licensing fees and the fees and expenses of the independent directors of USCF), UNG will realize a net yield that will tend to cause daily changes in the per share NAV of UNG to track slightly higher than daily changes in the Benchmark Futures Contract. If short-term interest rates rise above the current levels, the level of deviation created by the yield would decrease. Conversely, if short-term interest rates were to decline, the amount of error created by the yield would increase. When short-term yields drop to a level lower than the combined expenses of the management fee and the brokerage commissions, then the tracking error becomes a negative number and would tend to cause the daily returns of the per share NAV to underperform the daily returns of the Benchmark Futures Contract. USCF anticipates that interest rates will continue to remain at historical lows and, therefore, it is anticipated that fees and expenses paid by UNG will continue to be higher than interest earned by UNG. As such, USCF anticipates that UNG will continue to underperform its benchmark until such a time when interest earned at least equals or exceeds the fees and expenses paid by UNG.

 

Third, UNG may hold Other Natural Gas-Related Investments in its portfolio that may fail to closely track the Benchmark Futures Contract’s total return movements. In that case, the error in tracking the Benchmark Futures Contract could result in daily changes in the per share NAV of UNG that are either too high, or too low, relative to the daily changes in the Benchmark Futures Contract. During the year ended December 31, 2016, UNG did not hold Other Natural Gas-Related Investments. UNG also held investments in natural gas Futures Contracts traded on the ICE Futures US whose settlement price also tracks the settlement price of the Benchmark Futures Contract and fully-collateralized OTC swaps designed to track the settlement price of the Benchmark Futures Contract. Due, in part, to the size of UNG and its obligations to comply with regulatory limits, UNG has invested in Other Natural Gas-Related Investments, such as OTC swaps, which have increased transaction-related expenses and may result in increased tracking error. OTC swaps increase transaction-related expenses due to the fact that UNG must pay to the swap counterparty certain fees that UNG does not have to pay for transactions executed on an exchange. Finally, due to potential regulatory limitations, UNG may determine to hold greater amounts of cash and cash equivalents and lesser amounts of Natural Gas Interests, if it determines that will most appropriately satisfy UNG’s investment objective. Holding more cash and cash equivalents and less Natural Gas Interests for some period of time may result in increased tracking error. There are additional Other Natural Gas-Related Investments that UNG is permitted to invest in whose price movements may not track the settlement price of the Benchmark Futures Contract.

 

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Term Structure of Natural Gas Futures Prices and the Impact on Total Returns. Several factors determine the total return from investing in futures contracts. One factor arises from “rolling” futures contracts that will expire at the end of the current month (the “near” or “front” month contract) forward each month prior to expiration. For a strategy that entails holding the near month contract, the price relationship between that futures contract and the next month futures contract will impact returns. For example, if the price of the near month futures contract is higher than the next futures month contract (a situation referred to as “backwardation”), then absent any other change, the price of a next month futures contract tends to rise in value as it becomes the near month futures contract and approaches expiration. Conversely, if the price of a near month futures contract is lower than the next month futures contract (a situation referred to as “contango”), then absent any other change, the price of a next month futures contract tends to decline in value as it becomes the near month futures contract and approaches expiration.

 

As an example, assume that the price of natural gas for immediate delivery, is $3 per MMbtu, and the value of a position in the near month futures contract is also $3. Over time, the price of natural gas will fluctuate based on a number of market factors, including demand for oil relative to supply. The value of the near month futures contract will likewise fluctuate in reaction to a number of market factors. If an investor seeks to maintain a position in a near month futures contract and not take delivery of physical MMbtu of natural gas, the investor must sell the current near month futures contract as it approaches expiration and invest in the next month futures contract. In order to continue holding a position in the current near month futures contract, this “roll” forward of the futures contract must be executed every month.

 

Contango and backwardation are natural market forces that have impacted the total return on an investment in UNG’s shares during the past year relative to a hypothetical direct investment in natural gas. In the future, it is likely that the relationship between the market price of UNG’s shares and changes in the spot prices of natural gas will continue to be impacted by contango and backwardation. It is important to note that this comparison ignores the potential costs associated with physically owning and storing natural gas, which could be substantial.

 

If the futures market is in backwardation, e.g., when the price of the near month futures contract is higher than the price of the next month futures contract, the investor would buy a next month futures contract for a lower price than the current near month futures contract. Assuming the price of the next month futures contract was $2.94 per MMbtu, or 2% cheaper than the $3 near month futures contract, then, hypothetically, and assuming no other changes (e.g., to either prevailing natural gas prices or the price relationship between the spot price, the near month contract and the next month contract, and, ignoring the impact of commission costs and the income earned on cash and/or cash equivalents), the value of the $2.94 next month futures contract would rise to $3 as it approaches expiration. In this example, the value of an investment in the next month futures contract would tend to outperform the spot price of natural gas. As a result, it would be possible for the new near month futures contract to rise 12% while the spot price of natural gas may have risen a lower amount, e.g., only 10%. Similarly, the spot price of natural gas could have fallen 10% while the value of an investment in the futures contract might have fallen another amount, e.g., only 8%. Over time, if backwardation remained constant, this difference between the spot price and the futures contract price would continue to increase.

 

If the futures market is in contango, an investor would be buying a next month futures contract for a higher price than the current near month futures contract. Again, assuming the near month futures contract is $3 per MMbtu, the price of the next month futures contract might be $3.06 per MMbtu, or 2% more expensive than the front month futures contract. Hypothetically, and assuming no other changes, the value of the $3.06 next month futures contract would fall to $3 as it approaches expiration. In this example, the value of an investment in the second month would tend to underperform the spot price of natural gas. As a result, it would be possible for the new near month futures contract to rise only 10% while the spot price of natural gas may have risen a higher amount, e.g., 12%. Similarly, the spot price of natural gas could have fallen 10% while the value of an investment in the second month futures contract might have fallen another amount, e.g., 12%. Over time, if contango remained constant, this difference between the spot price and the futures contract price would continue to increase.

 

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The chart below compares the daily price of the near month natural gas futures contract to the price of 13th month natural gas futures contract (i.e. a contract one year forward) over the last 10 years. When the price of the near month futures contract is higher than the price of the 13th month futures contract, the market would be described as being in backwardation. When the price of the near month futures contract is lower than the 13th month futures contract, the market would be described as being in contango. Although the price of the near month futures contract and the price of the 13th month futures contract tend to move together, it can be seen that at times the near month futures contract prices are higher than the 13th month futures contract prices (backwardation) and, at other times, the near month futures contract prices are lower than the 13th month futures contract prices (contango).

 

 

 

*PAST PERFORMANCE IS NOT NECESSARILY INDICATIVE OF FUTURE RESULTS

  

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An alternative way to view the same data is to subtract the dollar price of the 13th month natural gas futures contract from the dollar price of the near month natural gas futures contract, as shown in the chart below. When the difference is positive, the market is in backwardation. When the difference is negative, the market is in contango. The natural gas market spent time in both backwardation and contango during the last ten years. The chart below shows the results from subtracting the average dollar price of the near 12 month contracts from the near month price for the 10 year period between December 31, 2006 and December 31, 2016. Investors will note that the natural gas market spent time in both backwardation and contango.

 

 

 *PAST PERFORMANCE IS NOT NECESSARILY INDICATIVE OF FUTURE RESULTS

 

An investment in a portfolio that owned only the near month natural gas futures contract would likely produce a different result than an investment in a portfolio that owned an equal number of each of the near 12 months’ of natural gas futures contracts. Generally speaking, when the natural gas futures market is in backwardation, a portfolio of only the near month natural gas futures contract may tend to have a higher total return than a portfolio of 12 months’ of the natural gas futures contract. Conversely, if the natural gas futures market was in contango, the portfolio containing only 12 months’ of natural gas futures contracts may tend to outperform the portfolio holding only the near month natural gas futures contract.

 

Historically, the natural gas futures markets have experienced periods of contango and backwardation. Because natural gas demand is seasonal, it is possible for the price of natural gas futures contracts for delivery within one or two months to rapidly move from backwardation into contango and back again within the relatively short period of time of less than one year. While the investment objective of UNG is not to have the market price of its shares match, dollar for dollar, changes in the spot price of natural gas, both contango and backwardation impacted the total return on an investment in UNG shares during the year ended December 31, 2016 relative to a hypothetical direct investment in natural gas. For example, an investment in UNG shares made on December 31, 2015 and held to December 31, 2016 increased, based upon the changes in the NAV for UNG shares on those days, by approximately 7.73%, while the spot price of natural gas for immediate delivery (as represented by the price of the Benchmark Futures Contract) during the same period increased by approximately 7.03% (note: this comparison ignores the potential costs associated with physically owning and storing natural gas, which could be substantial). By comparison, an investment in UNG shares made on December 31, 2014 and held to December 31, 2015 decreased, based upon the changes in the NAV for UNG shares on those days, by approximately 40.60%, while the spot price of natural gas for immediate delivery (as represented by the price of the Benchmark Futures Contract) during the same period decreased by approximately (19.11)% (note: this comparison ignores the potential costs associated with physically owning and storing natural gas, which could be substantial).

 

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Periods of contango or backwardation do not materially impact UNG’s investment objective of having the daily percentage changes in its per share NAV track the daily percentage changes in the price of the Benchmark Futures Contract since the impact of backwardation and contango tend to equally impact the daily percentage changes in price of both UNG’s shares and the Benchmark Futures Contract. It is impossible to predict with any degree of certainty whether backwardation or contango will occur in the future. It is likely that both conditions will occur during different periods and, because of the seasonal nature of natural gas demand, both may occur within a single year’s time.

  

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Natural Gas Market. During the year ended December 31, 2016, natural gas prices in the United States were volatile and finished the period lower than the beginning of the year. Prices were impacted by several factors. Colder weather in some parts of the country during the early months of 2016 increased demand for natural gas, while a historic storage surplus that has weighed on prices in recent years exceeded the five-year average and prior year levels. As of December 31, 2016, the amount of natural gas in storage had reached 3,311 billion cubic feet, which was approximately 0.06% below the five-year average and 9.11% below prior year levels.

 

By comparison, during the year ended December 31, 2015, natural gas prices in the United States were volatile and finished the period lower than the beginning of the year. Prices were impacted by several factors. Colder weather in some parts of the country during the early months of 2015 increased demand for natural gas, while a historic storage surplus that has weighed on prices in recent year exceeded the five-year average and prior year levels. As of December 31, 2015, the amount of natural gas in storage had reached 3,756 billion cubic feet, which was approximately 14% above the five-year average and 17% above prior year levels.

 

By comparison, during the year ended December 31, 2014, natural gas prices in the United States were volatile and finished the period lower than the beginning of the year. Prices were impacted by several factors. Colder weather in some parts of the country during the early months of 2014 increased demand for natural gas, while a historic storage surplus that had weighed on prices in recent years fell below the five-year average and 2013 levels. From April through October, strong weekly supply injections allowed inventory levels to recover, and a combination of warmer weather and weak storage withdraws heading into the winter resulted in inventories returning to approximate 5-year average levels. As of December 31, 2014, the amount of natural gas in storage had reached 3,089 billion cubic feet, which was approximately 2.1% below the five-year average and 0.09% above 2013 levels.

 

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Natural Gas Price Movements in Comparison to Other Energy Commodities and Investment Categories. USCF believes that investors frequently measure the degree to which prices or total returns of one investment or asset class move up or down in value in concert with another investment or asset class. Statistically, such a measure is usually done by measuring the correlation of the price movements of the two different investments or asset classes over some period of time. The correlation is scaled between 1 and -1, where 1 indicates that the two investment options move up or down in price or value together, known as “positive correlation,” and -1 indicates that they move in completely opposite directions, known as “negative correlation.” A correlation of 0 would mean that the movements of the two are neither positively nor negatively correlated, known as “non-correlation.” That is, the investment options sometimes move up and down together and other times move in opposite directions.

 

For the ten-year time period between 2006 and 2016, the table below compares the monthly movements of natural gas prices versus the monthly movements of the prices of several other energy commodities, such as crude oil, diesel-heating oil, and unleaded gasoline, as well as several major non-commodity investment asset classes, such as large cap U.S. equities, U.S. government bonds and global equities. It can be seen that over this particular time period, the movement of natural gas on a monthly basis was neither strongly correlated nor inversely correlated with the movements of large cap U.S. equities, global equities, crude oil, diesel-Heating oil, or unleaded gasoline, and uncorrelated with U.S. government bonds.

 

Correlation Matrix 
December 31, 2006-2016
  Large 
Cap 
U.S. 
Equities 
(S&P 
500)
   U.S. Gov’t. 
Bonds 
(EFFAS 
U.S. Gov’t. 
Bond 
Index)
   Global 
Equities 
(FTSE 
World 
Index)
   Crude
Oil
   Diesel- 
Heating 
Oil
   Unleaded 
Gasoline
   Natural
Gas
 
                                    
Large Cap U.S. Equities (S&P 500)   1.000    (0.315)   0.963    0.436    0.426    0.462    0.122 
U.S. Gov’t. Bonds (EFFAS U.S.
Gov’t. Bond Index)
        1.000    (0.282)   (0.376)   (0.345)   (0.401)   (0.051)
Global Equities
(FTSE World Index)
             1.000    0.508    0.482    0.512    0.164 
Crude Oil                  1.000    0.817    0.757    0.298 
Diesel-Heating Oil                       1.000    0.749    0.280 
Unleaded Gasoline                            1.000    0.148 
Natural Gas                                 1.000 

 

Source: Bloomberg, NYMEX

 

PAST PERFORMANCE IS NOT NECESSARILY INDICATIVE OF FUTURE RESULTS

 

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The table below covers a more recent, but much shorter, range of dates than the above table. Over the one year period ended December 31, 2016, the movement of natural gas on a monthly basis was moderately correlated with large-cap U.S. equities, global equities, crude oil, diesel-heating oil and unleaded gasoline and uncorrelated with U.S. government bonds.

 

Correlation Matrix
12 Months ended December 31,
2016
  Large
Cap
U.S.
Equities
(S&P
500)
   U.S.
 Gov’t.
Bonds
(EFFAS
U.S.
Gov’t.
Bond
Index)
   Global
Equities
(FTSE
World
Index)
   Crude
Oil
   Diesel-
Heating
Oil
   Unleaded
Gasoline
   Natural
Gas
 
Large Cap U.S. Equities (S&P 500)   1.000    (0.381)   0.940    0.348    0.188    0.636    0.304 
U.S. Gov’t. Bonds (EFFAS U.S. Gov’t. Bond Index)        1.000    (0.302)   (0.365)   (0.318)   (0.320)   (0.007)
Global Equities (FTSE World Index)             1.000    0.382    0.206    0.689    0.247 
Crude Oil                  1.000    0.972    0.804    0.293 
Diesel-Heating Oil                       1.000    0.725    0.216 
Unleaded Gasoline                            1.000    0.329 
Natural Gas                                 1.000 

 

Source: Bloomberg, NYMEX

 

PAST PERFORMANCE IS NOT NECESSARILY INDICATIVE OF FUTURE RESULTS

 

Investors are cautioned that the historical price relationships between natural gas and various other energy commodities, as well as other investment asset classes, as measured by correlation may not be reliable predictors of future price movements and correlation results. The results pictured above would have been different if a different range of dates had been selected. USCF believes that natural gas has historically not demonstrated a strong correlation with equities or bonds over long periods of time. However, USCF also believes that in the future it is possible that natural gas could have long term correlation results that indicate prices of natural gas more closely track the movements of equities or bonds. In addition, USCF believes that, when measured over time periods shorter than ten years, there will always be some periods where the correlation of natural gas to equities and bonds will be either more strongly positively correlated or more strongly negatively correlated than the long term historical results suggest.

 

The correlations between natural gas, crude oil, diesel-heating oil and gasoline are relevant because USCF endeavors to invest UNG’s assets in natural gas Futures Contracts and Other Natural Gas-Related Investments so that daily changes in percentage terms in UNG’s per share NAV correlate as closely as possible with daily changes in percentage terms in the price of the Benchmark Futures Contract. If certain other fuel-based commodity futures contracts do not closely correlate with the natural gas Futures Contract, then their use could lead to greater tracking error. As noted above, USCF also believes that the changes in percentage terms in the price of the Benchmark Futures Contract will closely correlate with changes in percentage terms in the spot price of natural gas.

 

Critical Accounting Policies

 

Preparation of the financial statements and related disclosures in compliance with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America requires the application of appropriate accounting rules and guidance, as well as the use of estimates. UNG’s application of these policies involves judgments and actual results may differ from the estimates used.

 

USCF has evaluated the nature and types of estimates that it makes in preparing UNG’s financial statements and related disclosures and has determined that the valuation of its investments, which are not traded on a United States or internationally recognized futures exchange (such as forward contracts and OTC swaps) involves a critical accounting policy. The values which are used by UNG for its natural gas Futures Contracts are provided by its commodity broker who uses market prices when available, while OTC swaps are valued based on the present value of estimated future cash flows that would be received from or paid to a third party in settlement of these derivative contracts prior to their delivery date and valued on a daily basis. In addition, UNG estimates interest and dividend income on a daily basis using prevailing rates earned on its cash and cash equivalents. These estimates are adjusted to the actual amount received on a monthly basis and the difference, if any, is not considered material.

 

Liquidity and Capital Resources

 

UNG has not made, and does not anticipate making, use of borrowings or other lines of credit to meet its obligations. UNG has met, and it is anticipated that UNG will continue to meet, its liquidity needs in the normal course of business from the proceeds of the sale of its investments, or from the Treasuries, cash and/or cash equivalents that it intends to hold at all times. UNG’s liquidity needs include: redeeming shares, providing margin deposits for its existing natural gas Futures Contracts or the purchase of additional natural gas Futures Contracts and posting collateral for its OTC swaps and payment of its expenses, summarized below under “Contractual Obligations.”

 

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UNG currently generates cash primarily from: (i) the sale of baskets consisting of 100,000 shares and (ii) income earned on Treasuries, cash and/or cash equivalents. UNG has allocated substantially all of its net assets to trading in Natural Gas Interests. UNG invests in Natural Gas Interests to the fullest extent possible without being leveraged or unable to satisfy its current or potential margin or collateral obligations with respect to its investments in natural gas Futures Contracts and Other Natural Gas-Related Investments. A significant portion of UNG’s NAV is held in cash and cash equivalents that are used as margin and as collateral for its trading in Natural Gas Interests. The balance of the assets is held in UNG’s account at its custodian bank and in investments in Treasuries at the FCM. Income received from UNG’s investments in money market funds and Treasuries is paid to UNG. During the year ended December 31, 2016, UNG’s expenses exceeded the income UNG earned and the cash earned from the sales of Creation Baskets. Similarly, during the year ended December 31, 2015, UNG’s expenses exceeded the income UNG earned and the cash earned from the sale of Creation Baskets and the redemption of Redemption Baskets. To the extent expenses exceed income, UNG’s NAV was negatively impacted.

 

UNG’s investments in Natural Gas Interests may be subject to periods of illiquidity because of market conditions, regulatory considerations and other reasons. For example, most commodity exchanges limit the fluctuations in futures contracts prices during a single day by regulations referred to as “daily limits.” During a single day, no trades may be executed at prices beyond the daily limit. Once the price of a futures contract has increased or decreased by an amount equal to the daily limit, positions in the contracts can neither be taken nor liquidated unless the traders are willing to effect trades at or within the specified daily limit. In addition, when UNG is invested in OTC swaps, those OTC swaps have very limited liquidity since they are negotiated agreements that are not transferable by UNG except with the consent of its counterparty, and even if consent were granted, there may not be an available transferee. If UNG invests in OTC swaps in the future, such market conditions or contractual limits could prevent UNG from promptly liquidating its positions in Natural Gas Interests. During the year ended December 31, 2016, UNG did not purchase or liquidate any of its positions while daily limits were in effect; however, UNG cannot predict whether such an event may occur in the future.

 

Since the initial offering of shares, UNG has been responsible for expenses relating to: (i) management fees, (ii) brokerage fees and commissions and fees associated with its OTC swaps, (iii) licensing fees for the use of intellectual property, (iv) ongoing registration expenses in connection with offers and sales of its shares subsequent to the initial offering, (v) other expenses, including tax reporting costs, (vi) fees and expenses of the independent directors of USCF and (vii) other extraordinary expenses not in the ordinary course of business, while USCF has been responsible for expenses relating to the fees of UNG’s Marketing Agent, Administrator and Custodian and registration expenses relating to the initial offering of shares. If USCF and UNG are unsuccessful in raising sufficient funds to cover these respective expenses or in locating any other source of funding, UNG will terminate and investors may lose all or part of their investment.

 

Market Risk

 

Trading in natural gas Futures Contracts and Other Natural Gas-Related Investments, such as forwards, involves UNG entering into contractual commitments to purchase or sell natural gas at a specified date in the future. The aggregate market value of the contracts will significantly exceed UNG’s future cash requirements since UNG intends to close out its open positions prior to settlement. As a result, UNG is generally only subject to the risk of loss arising from the change in value of the contracts. UNG considers the “fair value” of its derivative instruments to be the unrealized gain or loss on the contracts. The market risk associated with UNG’s commitments to purchase natural gas is limited to the aggregate market value of the contracts held. However, should UNG enter into a contractual commitment to sell natural gas, it would be required to make delivery of the natural gas at the contract price, repurchase the contract at prevailing prices or settle in cash. Since there are no limits on the future price of natural gas, the market risk to UNG could be unlimited.

 

UNG’s exposure to market risk depends on a number of factors, including the markets for natural gas, the volatility of interest rates and foreign exchange rates, the liquidity of the natural gas Futures Contracts and Other Natural Gas-Related Investments markets and the relationships among the contracts held by UNG. Drastic market occurrences could ultimately lead to the loss of all or substantially all of an investor’s capital.

 

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Credit Risk

 

When UNG enters into natural gas Futures Contracts and Other Natural Gas-Related Investments, it is exposed to the credit risk that the counterparty will not be able to meet its obligations. The counterparty for the natural gas Futures Contracts traded on the NYMEX and on most other futures exchanges is the clearinghouse associated with the particular exchange. In general, in addition to margin required to be posted by the clearinghouse in connection with cleared trades, clearinghouses are backed by their members who may be required to share in the financial burden resulting from the nonperformance of one of their members and, therefore, this additional member support should significantly reduce credit risk. UNG is not currently a member of any clearinghouse. Some foreign exchanges are not backed by their clearinghouse members but may be backed by a consortium of banks or other financial institutions. There can be no assurance that any counterparty, clearinghouse, or their members or their financial backers will satisfy their obligations to UNG in such circumstances.

  

USCF attempts to manage the credit risk of UNG by following various trading limitations and policies. In particular, UNG generally posts margin and/or holds liquid assets that are approximately equal to the market value of its obligations to counterparties under the natural gas Futures Contracts and Other Natural Gas-Related Investments it holds. USCF has implemented procedures that include, but are not limited to, executing and clearing trades only with creditworthy parties and/or requiring the posting of collateral or margin by such parties for the benefit of UNG to limit its credit exposure. An FCM, when acting on behalf of UNG in accepting orders to purchase or sell natural gas Futures Contracts on United States exchanges, is required by CFTC regulations to separately account for and segregate as belonging to UNG, all assets of UNG relating to domestic natural gas Futures Contracts trading. FCMs are not allowed to commingle UNG’s assets with their other assets. In addition, the CFTC requires commodity brokers to hold in a secure account UNG’s assets related to foreign natural gas Futures Contracts trading and, in some cases, to cleared swaps executed through the FCM. Similarly, under its current OTC agreements, UNG requires that collateral it posts or receives be posted with its custodian, and under agreements among the custodian, UNG and its counterparties, such collateral is segregated.

 

In the Future, UNG may purchase OTC swaps, see “Item 7A. Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk” in this annual report on Form 10-K for a discussion of OTC swaps.

 

As of December 31, 2016, UNG held cash deposits and investments in Treasuries and money market funds in the amount of $567,786,082 with the custodian and FCM. Some or all of these amounts held by a custodian or an FCM, as applicable, may be subject to loss should UNG’s custodian or FCM, as applicable, cease operations.

 

Off Balance Sheet Financing

 

As of December 31, 2016, UNG had no loan guarantee, credit support or other off-balance sheet arrangements of any kind other than agreements entered into in the normal course of business, which may include indemnification provisions relating to certain risks that service providers undertake in performing services which are in the best interests of UNG. While UNG’s exposure under these indemnification provisions cannot be estimated, they are not expected to have a material impact on UNG’s financial position.

 

European Sovereign Debt

 

UNG had no direct exposure to European sovereign debt as of December 31, 2016 and has no direct exposure to European sovereign debt as of the filing of this annual report on Form 10-K.

 

Redemption Basket Obligation

 

In order to meet its investment objective and pay its contractual obligations described below, UNG requires liquidity to redeem shares, which redemptions must be in blocks of 100,000 shares called “Redemption Baskets.” UNG has to date satisfied this obligation by paying from the cash or cash equivalents it holds or through the sale of its Treasuries in an amount proportionate to the number of shares being redeemed.

 

 57 

 

 

Contractual Obligations

 

UNG’s primary contractual obligations are with USCF. In return for its services, USCF is entitled to a management fee calculated daily and paid monthly as a fixed percentage of UNG’s NAV, currently 0.60% for a NAV of $1 billion or less, and thereafter of 0.50% for a NAV above $1 billion.

 

USCF agreed to pay the start-up costs associated with the formation of UNG, primarily its legal, accounting and other costs in connection with USCF’s registration with the CFTC as a CPO and the registration and listing of UNG and its shares with the SEC, FINRA and NYSE Arca (formerly, AMEX), respectively. However, since UNG’s initial offering of shares, offering costs incurred in connection with registering and listing additional shares of UNG have been directly borne on an ongoing basis by UNG, and not by USCF.

 

USCF pays the fees of the Marketing Agent and the fees of BBH&Co., as well as BBH&Co.’s fees for performing administrative services, including those in connection with the preparation of UNG’s financial statements and its SEC, NFA and CFTC reports. USCF and UNG have also entered into a licensing agreement with the NYMEX pursuant to which UNG and the Related Public Funds, other than BNO, USCI, CPER, and USAG pay a licensing fee to the NYMEX. UNG also pays the fees and expenses associated with its tax accounting and reporting requirements.

 

In addition to USCF’s management fee, UNG pays its brokerage fees (including fees to an FCM), OTC dealer spreads and up-front fees if it holds OTC swaps, any licensing fees for the use of intellectual property, and, subsequent to the initial offering, registration and other fees paid to the SEC, FINRA, or other regulatory agencies in connection with the offer and sale of shares, as well as legal, printing, accounting and other expenses associated therewith, and extraordinary expenses. The latter are expenses not incurred in the ordinary course of UNG’s business, including expenses relating to the indemnification of any person against liabilities and obligations to the extent permitted by law and under the LP Agreement, the bringing or defending of actions in law or in equity or otherwise conducting litigation and incurring legal expenses and the settlement of claims and litigation. Commission payments to an FCM are on a contract-by-contract, or round turn, basis. UNG also pays a portion of the fees and expenses of the independent directors of USCF. See Note 3 to the Notes to Financial Statements in Item 8 of this annual report on Form 10-K.

 

The parties cannot anticipate the amount of payments that will be required under these arrangements for future periods, as UNG’s per share NAVs and trading levels to meet its investment objective will not be known until a future date. These agreements are effective for a specific term agreed upon by the parties with an option to renew, or, in some cases, are in effect for the duration of UNG’s existence. Either party may terminate these agreements earlier for certain reasons described in the agreements.

 

As of December 31, 2016, UNG’s portfolio consisted of 9,442 Natural Gas NG Futures Contracts traded on the NYMEX and 20,000 Natural Gas Futures LD1 H Contracts traded on the ICE Futures. For a list of UNG’s current holdings, please see UNG’s website at www.uscfinvestments.com.

 

Item 7A. Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk.

 

OTC Contract Risk

 

Currently, OTC transactions are subject to changing regulation.

 

UNG may purchase OTC contracts, such as forward contracts or swap or spot contracts. Unlike most exchange-traded futures contracts, cleared swaps or exchange-traded options on such futures, each party to an OTC swap bears the credit risk that the other party may not be able to perform its obligations under its contract.

 

UNG may enter into certain transactions where an OTC component is exchanged for a corresponding futures contract (“Exchange for Related Position” or “EFRP” transactions). In the most common type of EFRP transaction entered into by UNG, the OTC component is the purchase or sale of one or more baskets of UNG shares. These EFRP transactions may expose UNG to counterparty risk during the interim period between the execution of the OTC component and the exchange for a corresponding futures contract. Generally, the counterparty risk from the EFRP transaction will exist only on the day of execution.

  

 58 

 

 

Swap transactions, like other financial transactions, involve a variety of significant risks. The specific risks presented by a particular swap transaction necessarily depend upon the terms and circumstances of the transaction. In general, however, all swap transactions involve some combination of market risk, credit risk, counterparty credit risk, funding risk, liquidity risk and operational risk.

 

Highly customized swap transactions in particular may increase liquidity risk, which may result in a suspension of redemptions. Highly leveraged transactions may experience substantial gains or losses in value as a result of relatively small changes in the value or level of an underlying or related market factor.

 

In evaluating the risks and contractual obligations associated with a particular swap transaction, it is important to consider that a swap transaction may be modified or terminated only by mutual consent of the original parties and subject to agreement on individually negotiated terms. Therefore, it may not be possible for USCF to modify, terminate or offset UNG’s obligations or its exposure to the risks associated with a transaction prior to its scheduled termination date.

 

To reduce the credit risk that arises in connection with such contracts, UNG will generally enter into an agreement with each counterparty based on the Master Agreement published by the International Swaps and Derivatives Association that provides for the netting of its overall exposure to its counterparty, if the counterparty is unable to meet its obligations to UNG due to the occurrence of a specified event, such as the insolvency of the counterparty.

 

USCF assesses or reviews, as appropriate, the creditworthiness of each potential or existing counterparty to an OTC swap pursuant to guidelines approved by USCF’s board of directors (the “Board”). Furthermore, USCF on behalf of UNG only enters into OTC swaps with counterparties who are, or are affiliates of (a) banks regulated by a United States federal bank regulator, (b) broker-dealers regulated by the SEC, (c) insurance companies domiciled in the United States, or (d) producers, users or traders of energy, whether or not regulated by the CFTC. Any entity acting as a counterparty shall be regulated in either the United States or the United Kingdom unless otherwise approved by the Board after consultation with its legal counsel. Existing counterparties are also reviewed periodically by USCF. UNG will also require that the counterparty be highly rated and/or provide collateral or other credit support. Even if collateral is used to reduce counterparty credit risk, sudden changes in the value of OTC transactions may leave a party open to financial risk due to a counterparty default since the collateral held may not cover a party’s exposure on the transaction in such situations.

 

Both the Board and its audit committee review statistics and data pertaining to each of UNG’s OTC counterparties. Reports are provided verbally and in writing by USCF’s management at least quarterly and more frequently when deemed necessary. Data reviewed includes, but is not limited to, short-term and long-term credit ratings by Moody’s Investor Service, Inc., Standard & Poor’s Financial Services LLC and Fitch Ratings; changes in market capitalization and stock prices over the last five years; numerous financial ratios including capital and leverage ratios; and credit default swap yields and spreads. Additionally, members of USCF’s Board, audit committee and management team may note general economic or company specific news that necessitates a review of a counterparty’s creditworthiness outside of the regular review cycle. Board members and audit committee members may conduct their own analysis and contact USCF’s management team at their discretion to request further information or action. Board members are apprised of open positions as well as changes to positions and counterparties utilized by UNG on an ongoing basis. Significant changes to UNG’s OTC contract holdings are reported to the Board in a timely manner.

 

In general, valuing OTC derivatives is less certain than valuing actively traded financial instruments such as exchange-traded futures contracts and securities or cleared swaps because the price and terms on which such OTC derivatives are entered into or can be terminated are individually negotiated, and those prices and terms may not reflect the best price or terms available from other sources. In addition, while market makers and dealers generally quote indicative prices or terms for entering into or terminating OTC swaps, they typically are not contractually obligated to do so, particularly if they are not a party to the transaction. As a result, it may be difficult to obtain an independent value for an outstanding OTC derivatives transaction.

 

During the reporting period of this annual report on Form 10-K, UNG limited its derivatives activities to Natural Gas Contracts and EFRP transactions.

 

 59 

 

 

UNG maintains, in conjunction with its counterparties, collateral in the form of both cash and investments in Treasuries, depending on the specific arrangements with each counterparty. UNG is required to post an independent amount based on a percentage of the initial notional amount of each position at the inception of each OTC contract. In addition, between reset periods, UNG posts collateral for the benefit of its counterparties that approximately corresponds to any unrealized loss that would be realized by UNG if the OTC contract were closed on any given valuation date. Likewise, UNG’s counterparties post collateral for UNG’s benefit that approximately corresponds to any unrealized gain that would be realized by UNG if the OTC contract were to be closed on any given valuation date. At each reset date, UNG will make or receive settlement payments to or from its counterparties, and collateral posted by or for UNG will be returned to the appropriate party to offset the settlement payment made. Collateral is held by an independent third party and governed by tri-party agreements between UNG, its custodian, BBH&Co., and each counterparty.

 

UNG anticipates that the use of Other Natural Gas-Related Investments together with its investments in natural gas Futures Contracts will produce price and total return results that closely track the investment goals of UNG. However, there can be no assurance of this. OTC swaps may result in higher transaction-related expenses than the brokerage commissions paid in connection with the purchase of natural gas Futures Contracts, which may impact UNG’s ability to successfully track the Benchmark Futures Contract.

 60 

 

 

Item 8. Financial Statements and Supplementary Data.

 

United States Natural Gas Fund, LP

Index to Financial Statements

 

Documents   Page  
Management’s Annual Report on Internal Control Over Financial Reporting.   62
     
Reports of Independent Registered Public Accounting Firm.   64
     
Statements of Financial Condition at December 31, 2016 and 2015.   65
     
Schedule of Investments at December 31, 2016 and 2015.   66
     
Statements of Operations for the years ended December 31, 2016, 2015 and 2014.   68
     
Statements of Changes in Partners’ Capital for the years ended December 31, 2016, 2015 and 2014.   69
     
Statements of Cash Flows for the years ended December 31, 2016, 2015 and 2014.   70
     
Notes to Financial Statements for the years ended December 31, 2016, 2015 and 2014.   71

 

 61 

 

 

Management’s Annual Report on Internal Control Over Financial Reporting.

 

USCF assessed the effectiveness of UNG’s internal control over financial reporting as of December 31, 2016. In making this assessment, it used the criteria set forth by the Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission in Internal Control Integrated Framework (2013). Based on the assessment, USCF believes that, as of December 31, 2016, UNG’s internal control over financial reporting is effective.

 

 62 

 

 

Attestation Report of Registered Public Accounting Firm.

Report of Independent Registered Public Accounting Firm

Auditors’ Report on Internal Control over Financial Reporting

 

To the Partners of

United States Natural Gas Fund, LP

 

We have audited the internal control over financial reporting of United States Natural Gas Fund, LP (the “Fund”) as of December 31, 2016, based on criteria established in Internal Control — Integrated Framework (2013) issued by the Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission. The Fund’s management is responsible for maintaining effective internal control over financial reporting, and for its assessment of the effectiveness of internal control over financial reporting, included in the accompanying Management’s Annual Report on Internal Control Over Financial Reporting. Our responsibility is to express an opinion on the Fund’s internal control over financial reporting based on our audit.

 

We conducted our audit in accordance with the standards of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (United States). Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit to obtain reasonable assurance about whether effective internal control over financial reporting was maintained in all material respects. Our audit of internal control over financial reporting included obtaining an understanding of internal control over financial reporting, assessing the risk that a material weakness exists, and testing and evaluating the design and operating effectiveness of internal control based on the assessed risk. Our audit also included performing such other procedures as we considered necessary in the circumstances. We believe that our audit provides a reasonable basis for our opinion.

 

An entity’s internal control over financial reporting is a process designed to provide reasonable assurance regarding the reliability of financial reporting and the preparation of financial statements for external purposes in accordance with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America. An entity’s internal control over financial reporting includes those policies and procedures that (1) pertain to the maintenance of records that, in reasonable detail, accurately and fairly reflect the transactions and dispositions of the assets of the entity; (2) provide reasonable assurance that transactions are recorded as necessary to permit preparation of financial statements in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles, and that receipts and expenditures of the entity are being made only in accordance with authorizations of management and directors of the entity; and (3) provide reasonable assurance regarding prevention or timely detection of unauthorized acquisition, use, or disposition of the entity’s assets that could have a material effect on the financial statements.

 

Because of its inherent limitations, internal control over financial reporting may not prevent or detect misstatements. Also, projections of any evaluation of the effectiveness to future periods are subject to the risk that the controls may become inadequate because of changes in conditions, or that the degree of compliance with the policies or procedures may deteriorate.

 

In our opinion, the Fund maintained, in all material respects, effective internal control over financial reporting as of December 31, 2016, based on the criteria established in Internal Control — Integrated Framework (2013) issued by the Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission.

 

We have also audited, in accordance with the standards of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (United States), the financial statements as of and for the year ended December 31, 2016, of the Fund and our report dated February 24, 2017 expressed an unqualified opinion on those financial statements.

 

/s/ Spicer Jeffries LLP

Greenwood Village, Colorado

February 24, 2017

 

 63 

 

 

Report of Independent Registered Public Accounting Firm

 

To the Partners of

United States Natural Gas Fund, LP

 

We have audited the accompanying statements of financial condition of United States Natural Gas Fund, LP (the “Fund”) as of December 31, 2016 and 2015, including the schedule of investments as of December 31, 2016 and 2015, and the related statements of operations, changes in partners’ capital and cash flows for the years ended December 31, 2016, 2015 and 2014. These financial statements are the responsibility of the Fund’s management. Our responsibility is to express an opinion on these financial statements based on our audits.

 

We conducted our audits in accordance with standards of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (United States). Those standards require that we plan and perform the audits to obtain reasonable assurance about whether the financial statements are free of material misstatement. An audit includes examining, on a test basis, evidence supporting the amounts and disclosures in the financial statements. An audit also includes assessing the accounting principles used and significant estimates made by management, as well as evaluating the overall financial statement presentation. We believe that our audits provide a reasonable basis for our opinion.

 

In our opinion, the financial statements referred to above present fairly, in all material respects, the financial position of United States Natural Gas Fund, LP as of December 31, 2016 and 2015, and the results of its operations and its cash flows for the years ended December 31, 2016, 2015 and 2014, in conformity with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America.

 

We also have audited, in accordance with standards of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (United States), the Fund’s internal control over financial reporting as of December 31, 2016, based on criteria established in Internal Control — Integrated Framework (2013) issued by the Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission and our report dated February 24, 2017 expressed an unqualified opinion on the Fund’s internal control over financial reporting.

 

/s/ Spicer Jeffries LLP

Greenwood Village, Colorado

February 24, 2017

 

 

 64 

 

 

United States Natural Gas Fund, LP

Statements of Financial Condition

At December 31, 2016 and 2015

 

   December 31, 2016   December 31, 2015 
Assets          
Cash and cash equivalents (Notes 2 and 5)  $522,819,857   $453,830,484 
Equity in trading accounts:          
Cash and cash equivalents   44,966,225    24,941,552 
Unrealized gain (loss) on open commodity futures contracts   37,435,507    101,409,342 
Receivable for shares sold   4,646,990     
Dividends receivable   14,954    742 
Directors' fees and insurance receivable       26,732 
Prepaid registration fees   187,798    592,590 
ETF transaction fees receivable   2,000    2,000 
           
Total assets  $610,073,331   $580,803,442 
           
Liabilities and Partners' Capital          
Payable due to Broker  $44,770,339   $40,863,950 
Payable for shares redeemed   26,641,069    23,460,624 
General Partner management fees payable (Note 3)   303,354    249,954 
Professional fees payable   437,218    1,150,398 
Brokerage commissions payable   85,200    83,750 
Directors' fees and insurance payable   5,417     
License fees payable   19,932    21,886 
           
Total liabilities   72,262,529    65,830,562 
           
Commitments and Contingencies (Notes 3, 4 and 5)          
           
Partners' Capital          
General Partner        
Limited Partners   537,810,802    514,972,880 
Total Partners' Capital   537,810,802    514,972,880 
           
Total liabilities and partners' capital  $610,073,331   $580,803,442 
           
Limited Partners' shares outstanding   57,866,476    59,266,476 
Net asset value per share  $9.29   $8.69 
Market value per share  $9.34   $8.67 

 

See accompanying notes to financial statements.

 

 65 

 

 

United States Natural Gas Fund, LP

Schedule of Investments

At December 31, 2016

 

  

Number of
Contracts

  

Unrealized Gain
(Loss)

on Open Commodity
Contracts

  

% of
Partners'

Capital

 
Open Futures Contracts - Long               
United States Contracts               
ICE Natural Gas Futures LD1 H February 2017 contracts, expiring February 2017   20,000   $12,275,000    2.28 
NYMEX Natural Gas Futures NG February 2017 contracts, expiring January 2017   9,442    25,160,507    4.68 
Total Open Futures Contracts*   29,442   $37,435,507    6.96 

 

   Principal
Amount
  

Market
Value

     
Cash Equivalents               
United States Treasury Obligations               
U.S. Treasury Bills:               
0.34%, 1/05/2017  $15,000,000   $14,999,433    2.79 
0.36%, 1/26/2017   10,000,000    9,997,500    1.86 
0.40%, 2/02/2017   10,000,000    9,996,444    1.86 
0.42%, 2/09/2017   10,000,000    9,995,450    1.86 
0.45%, 2/16/2017   10,000,000    9,994,250    1.86 
0.45%, 2/23/2017   10,000,000    9,993,449    1.86 
0.45%, 3/02/2017   15,000,000    14,988,750    2.79 
0.47%, 3/09/2017   15,000,000    14,986,879    2.79 
0.50%, 3/16/2017   15,000,000    14,984,506    2.79 
0.45%, 3/23/2017   20,000,000    19,979,975    3.71 
0.43%, 3/30/2017   25,000,000    24,973,722    4.64 
0.46%, 4/06/2017   20,000,000    19,975,986    3.71 
0.47%, 4/13/2017   25,000,000    24,966,708    4.64 
0.46%, 4/20/2017   25,000,000    24,965,559    4.64 
0.47%, 4/27/2017   25,000,000    24,962,542    4.64 
0.49%, 5/04/2017   20,000,000    19,966,346    3.71 
0.55%, 5/11/2017   20,000,000    19,960,639    3.71 
0.60%, 5/18/2017   20,000,000    19,954,714    3.71 
0.61%, 5/25/2017   20,000,000    19,951,400    3.71 
0.60%, 6/01/2017   25,000,000    24,937,608    4.64 
0.62%, 6/08/2017   20,000,000    19,946,017    3.71 
0.65%, 6/15/2017   25,000,000    24,926,094    4.63 
0.64%, 6/22/2017   20,000,000    19,938,844    3.71 
0.60%, 6/29/2017   15,000,000    14,955,250    2.78 
Total Treasury Obligations        434,298,065    80.75 
                
United States - Money Market Funds               
Fidelity Investments Money Market Funds (formerly Fidelity Institutional Money Market Funds) - Government Portfolio   20,000,000    20,000,000    3.72 
Goldman Sachs Financial Square Funds - Government Fund - Class FS   20,000,000    20,000,000    3.72 
Morgan Stanley Institutional Liquidity Funds - Government Portfolio   10,000,000    10,000,000    1.86 
Total Money Market Funds        50,000,000    9.30 
Total Cash Equivalents       $484,298,065    90.05 

 

* Collateral amounted to $44,966,225 on open futures contracts.

 

See accompanying notes to financial statements.

 

 66 

 

 

United States Natural Gas Fund, LP

Schedule of Investments

At December 31, 2015

 

  

Number of
Contracts

  

Unrealized Gain
(Loss)
on Open
Commodity
Contracts

  

% of
Partners'

Capital

 
Open Futures Contracts - Long               
United States Contracts               
ICE Natural Gas Futures LD1 H February 2016 contracts, expiring February 2016   20,000   $23,131,500    4.49 
NYMEX Natural Gas Futures NG February 2016 contracts, expiring January 2016   17,036    78,277,842    15.20 
Total Open Futures Contracts*   37,036   $101,409,342    19.69 

 

  

Principal
Amount

  

Market
Value

     
Cash Equivalents               
United States Treasury Obligations               
U.S. Treasury Bills:               
0.19%, 2/04/2016  $25,000,000   $24,995,632    4.86 
0.22%, 2/11/2016   25,000,000    24,993,879    4.85 
0.20%, 2/18/2016   25,000,000    24,993,333    4.85 
0.20%, 2/25/2016   25,000,000    24,992,552    4.85 
0.26%, 3/10/2016   25,000,000    24,987,781    4.85 
0.09%, 3/24/2016   25,000,000    24,995,101    4.85 
0.07%, 3/31/2016   20,000,000    19,996,750    3.88 
0.07%, 4/07/2016   20,000,000    19,996,228    3.88 
0.07%, 4/14/2016   25,000,000    24,995,306    4.86 
0.11%, 4/21/2016   20,000,000    19,993,217    3.88 
0.21%, 4/28/2016   20,000,000    19,986,233    3.88 
0.33%, 5/12/2016   20,000,000    19,975,800    3.88 
0.31%, 5/19/2016   20,000,000    19,976,061    3.88 
0.35%, 5/26/2016   17,000,000    16,975,870    3.30 
0.43%, 6/02/2016   15,000,000    14,972,906    2.91 
0.52%, 6/09/2016   15,000,000    14,965,333    2.91 
0.47%, 6/30/2016   40,000,000    39,906,483    7.75 
Total Treasury Obligations        381,698,465    74.12 
                
United States - Money Market Funds               
Goldman Sachs Financial Square Funds - Government Fund - Class FS   10,000,000    10,000,000    1.94 
Morgan Stanley Institutional Liquidity Funds - Government Portfolio   20,000,000    20,000,000    3.89 
Total Money Market Funds        30,000,000    5.83 
Total Cash Equivalents       $411,698,465    79.95 

 

* Collateral amounted to $24,941,552 on open futures contracts.

 

See accompanying notes to financial statements.

 

 67 

 

 

United States Natural Gas Fund, LP

Statements of Operations

For the years ended December 31, 2016 , 2015 and 2014

 

  

Year ended
December 31,2016

  

Year ended
December 31, 2015

  

Year ended
December 31, 2014

 
Income               
Gain (loss) on trading of commodity futures contracts:               
Realized gain (loss) on closed futures contracts  $166,847,846   $(507,207,439)  $(47,954,734)
Realized gain (loss) on closed swap contracts           25,690,444 
Change in unrealized gain (loss) on open futures contracts   (63,973,835)   269,221,125    (153,777,873)
Change in unrealized gain (loss) on open swap contracts           6,654,820 
Dividend income   117,246    64,640    88,541 
Interest income   1,707,539    340,320    186,989 
ETF transaction fees   133,000    156,000    235,000 
                
Total income (loss)   104,831,796    (237,425,354)   (168,876,813)
                
Expenses               
General Partner management fees (Note 3)   3,263,777    3,645,561    4,336,707 
Professional fees   254,042    1,109,436    1,395,991 
Brokerage commissions   2,000,888    2,371,433    2,001,949 
Directors' fees and insurance   94,521    118,994    191,887 
License fees   81,594    91,139    108,418 
Registration fees   404,792    379,106    238,716 
                
Total expenses   6,099,614    7,715,669    8,273,668 
                
Net income (loss)  $98,732,182   $(245,141,023)  $(177,150,481)
Net income (loss) per limited partnership share  $0.60   $(5.94)  $(5.96)
Net income (loss) per weighted average limited partnership share  $1.40   $(4.98)  $(5.51)
Weighted average limited partnership shares outstanding   70,479,591    49,197,161    32,150,038 

 

See accompanying notes to financial statements.

 

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United States Natural Gas Fund, LP

Statements of Changes in Partners' Capital

For the years ended December 31, 2016 , 2015 and 2014

 

   General Partner   Limited Partners   Total 
             
Balances, at December 31, 2013  $   $938,382,164   $938,382,164 
Addition of 133,400,000 partnership shares       3,030,504,891    3,030,504,891 
Redemption of 134,500,000 partnership shares       (3,141,382,995)   (3,141,382,995)
Net income (loss)       (177,150,481)   (177,150,481)
                
Balances, at December 31, 2014       650,353,579    650,353,579 
Addition of 130,000,000 partnership shares       1,622,768,501    1,622,768,501 
Redemption of 115,200,000 partnership shares       (1,513,008,177)   (1,513,008,177)
Net income (loss)       (245,141,023)   (245,141,023)
                
Balances, at December 31, 2015       514,972,880    514,972,880 
Addition of 95,600,000 partnership shares       731,029,440    731,029,440 
Redemption of 97,000,000 partnership shares       (806,923,700)   (806,923,700)
Net income (loss)       98,732,182    98,732,182 
                
Balances, at December 31, 2016  $   $537,810,802   $537,810,802 
                
Net Asset Value Per Share:               
At December 31, 2013            $20.59 
At December 31, 2014            $14.63 
At December 31, 2015            $8.69 
At December 31, 2016            $9.29 

 

See accompanying notes to financial statements.

 

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United States Natural Gas Fund, LP

Statements of Cash Flows

For the years ended December 31, 2016 , 2015 and 2014

 

   Year ended December
31, 2016
   Year ended December
31, 2015
   Year ended December
31, 2014
 
Cash Flows from Operating Activities:               
Net income (loss)  $98,732,182   $(245,141,023)  $(177,150,481)
Adjustments to reconcile net income (loss) to net cash provided by (used in) operating activities:               
(Increase) decrease in commodity futures trading account - cash and cash equivalents   (20,024,673)   201,219,414    (202,013,387)
Unrealized (gain) loss on open futures contracts   63,973,835    (269,221,125)   153,777,873 
Unrealized (gain) loss on open swap contracts           (6,654,820)
(Increase) decrease in dividends receivable   (14,212)   6,665    1,173 
(Increase) decrease in directors' fees and insurance receivable   26,732    (9,371)   (10,902)
(Increase) decrease in prepaid registration fees   404,792    58,107    (650,697)
(Increase) decrease in ETF transaction fees receivable       (2,000)   4,000 
Increase (decrease) in payable due to Broker   3,906,389    40,863,950     
Increase (decrease) in General Partner management fees payable   53,400    (114,291)   (109,302)
Increase (decrease) in professional fees payable   (713,180)   (162,250)   (141,758)
Increase (decrease) in brokerage commissions payable   1,450    11,000    (9,000)
Increase (decrease) in directors' fees and insurance payable   5,417         
Increase (decrease) in license fees payable   (1,954)   (6,027)   (8,622)
Net cash provided by (used in) operating activities   146,350,178    (272,496,951)   (232,965,923)
                
Cash Flows from Financing Activities:               
Addition of partnership shares   726,382,450    1,626,007,655    3,186,658,005 
Redemption of partnership shares   (803,743,255)   (1,489,547,553)   (3,156,270,357)
Net cash provided by (used in) financing activities   (77,360,805)   136,460,102    30,387,648 
                
Net Increase (Decrease) in Cash and Cash Equivalents   68,989,373    (136,036,849)   (202,578,275)
                
Cash and Cash Equivalents, beginning of year   453,830,484    589,867,333    792,445,608 
Cash and Cash Equivalents, end of year  $522,819,857   $453,830,484   $589,867,333 

 

See accompanying notes to financial statements.

 

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United States Natural Gas Fund, LP

Notes to Financial Statements

For the years ended December 31, 2016, 2015 and 2014

 

NOTE 1 - ORGANIZATION AND BUSINESS

 

The United States Natural Gas Fund, LP (“UNG”) was organized as a limited partnership under the laws of the state of Delaware on September 11, 2006. UNG is a commodity pool that issues limited partnership shares (“shares”) that may be purchased and sold on the NYSE Arca, Inc. (the “NYSE Arca”). Prior to November 25, 2008, UNG’s shares traded on the American Stock Exchange (the “AMEX”). UNG will continue in perpetuity, unless terminated sooner upon the occurrence of one or more events as described in its Fourth Amended and Restated Agreement of Limited Partnership dated as of March 1, 2013 (the “LP Agreement”). The investment objective of UNG is for the daily changes in percentage terms of its shares’ per share net asset value (“NAV”) to reflect the daily changes in percentage terms of the price of natural gas delivered at the Henry Hub, Louisiana as measured by the daily changes in the price of the futures contract on natural gas as traded on the New York Mercantile Exchange (the “NYMEX”) that is the near month contract to expire, except when the near month contract is within two weeks of expiration, in which case the futures contract will be the next month contract to expire (the “Benchmark Futures Contract”), less UNG’s expenses. It is not the intent of UNG to be operated in a fashion such that the per share NAV will equal, in dollar terms, the spot price of natural gas or any particular futures contract based on natural gas. It is not the intent of UNG to be operated in a fashion such that its per share NAV will reflect the percentage change of the price of any particular futures contract as measured over a time period greater than one day. United States Commodity Funds LLC (“USCF”), the general partner of UNG, believes that it is not practical to manage the portfolio to achieve such an investment goal when investing in natural gas Futures Contracts (as defined below) and Other Natural Gas-Related Investments (as defined below). The net assets of UNG consists primarily of investments in futures contracts for natural gas that are traded on the NYMEX, ICE Futures Exchange (“ICE Futures”) or other U.S. and foreign exchanges (collectively, “Natural Gas Futures Contracts”), to a lesser extent, in order to comply with regulatory requirements or in view of market conditions, Other Natural Gas-Related Investments such as cash-settled options on Natural Gas Futures Contracts, forward contracts for natural gas, cleared swap contracts and non-exchange traded over-the-counter (“OTC”) transactions that are based on the price of natural gas, crude oil and other petroleum-based fuels, as well as futures contracts for crude oil, diesel-heating oil, gasoline and other petroleum-based fuels and indices based on the foregoing (collectively, “Other Natural Gas-Related Investments”). As of December 31, 2016, UNG held 9,442 NG Futures Contracts traded on the NYMEX, 20,000 Natural Gas Futures LD1 Contracts traded on the ICE Futures.

 

UNG commenced investment operations on April 18, 2007 and has a fiscal year ending on December 31. USCF is responsible for the management of UNG. USCF is a member of the National Futures Association (the “NFA”) and became registered as a commodity pool operator with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (the “CFTC”) effective December 1, 2005 and a swaps firm on August 8, 2013. USCF is also the general partner of the United States Oil Fund, LP (“USO”), the United States 12 Month Oil Fund, LP (“USL”), the United States Gasoline Fund, LP (“UGA”) and the United States Diesel-Heating Oil Fund, LP (“UHN”), which listed their limited partnership shares on the AMEX under the ticker symbols “USO” on April 10, 2006, “USL” on December 6, 2007, “UGA” on February 26, 2008 and “UHN” on April 9, 2008, respectively. As a result of the acquisition of the AMEX by NYSE Euronext, each of USO’s, USL’s, UGA’s and UHN’s shares commenced trading on the NYSE Arca on November 25, 2008. USCF is also the general partner of the United States Short Oil Fund, LP (“DNO”), the United States 12 Month Natural Gas Fund, LP (“UNL”) and the United States Brent Oil Fund, LP (“BNO”), which listed their limited partnership shares on the NYSE Arca under the ticker symbols “DNO” on September 24, 2009, “UNL” on November 18, 2009 and “BNO” on June 2, 2010, respectively. USCF is also the sponsor of the United States Commodity Index Fund (“USCI”), the United States Copper Index Fund (“CPER”), the United States Agriculture Index Fund (“USAG”) and USCF Canadian Crude Oil Index Fund (“UCCO”), each a series of the United States Commodity Index Funds Trust. USCI, CPER and USAG listed their shares on the NYSE Arca under the ticker symbol “USCI” on August 10, 2010, “CPER” on November 15, 2011 and “USAG” on April 13, 2012, respectively. UCCO is currently in registration.

 

All funds listed previously are referred to collectively herein as the “Related Public Funds.” In addition, USCF is the sponsor of the USCF Funds Trust, a Delaware statutory trust, and each of its series, the REX S&P MLP Fund, the REX S&P MLP Inverse Fund, the United States 3X Oil Fund and the United States 3X Short Oil Fund, all of which are funds that are currently in registration and have not commenced operations. The funds that are series of the USCF Funds Trust (the “REX Funds”) are not included in the Related Public Funds.

 

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UNG issues shares to certain authorized purchasers (“Authorized Participants”) by offering baskets consisting of 100,000 shares (“Creation Baskets”) through ALPS Distributors, Inc., as the marketing agent (the “Marketing Agent”). The purchase price for a Creation Basket is based upon the NAV of a share calculated shortly after the close of the core trading session on the NYSE Arca on the day the order to create the basket is properly received.

 

In addition, Authorized Participants pay UNG a $1,000 fee for each order placed to create one or more Creation Baskets or to redeem one or more baskets (“Redemption Baskets”), consisting of 100,000 shares. Shares may be purchased or sold on a nationally recognized securities exchange in smaller increments than a Creation Basket or Redemption Basket. Shares purchased or sold on a nationally recognized securities exchange are not purchased or sold at the per share NAV of UNG but rather at market prices quoted on such exchange.

 

In April 2007, UNG initially registered 30,000,000 shares on Form S-1 with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“the SEC”). On April 18, 2007, UNG listed its shares on the AMEX under the ticker symbol “UNG” and switched to trading on the NYSE Arca under the same ticker symbol on November 25, 2008. On that day, UNG established its initial per share NAV by setting the price at $50.00 and issued 200,000 shares in exchange for $10,001,000. UNG also commenced investment operations on April 18, 2007, by purchasing Natural Gas Futures Contracts traded on the NYMEX based on natural gas. As of December 31, 2016, UNG had registered a total of 1,880,000,000 shares.

 

On February 21, 2012, after the close of trading on the NYSE Arca, UNG effected a 4-for-1 reverse share split and post-split shares of UNG began trading on February 22, 2012. As a result of the reverse share split, every four pre-split shares of UNG were automatically exchanged for one post-split share. Immediately prior to the reverse split, there were 174,297,828 shares of UNG issued and outstanding, representing a per share NAV of $5.51. Immediately after the reverse share split, the number of issued and outstanding shares of UNG decreased to 43,574,457, not accounting for fractional shares, and the per share NAV increased to $22.04. In connection with the reverse share split, the CUSIP number of UNG’s shares changed to 912318201. UNG’s ticker symbol, “UNG,” remains the same.

 

NOTE 2 - SUMMARY OF SIGNIFICANT ACCOUNTING POLICIES

 

Basis of Presentation

 

The financial statements have been prepared in conformity with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America (“U.S. GAAP”) as detailed in the Financial Accounting Standards Board’s (“FASB”) Accounting Standards Codification. UNG is an investment company and follows the accounting and reporting guidance in FASB Topic 946.

 

Revenue Recognition

 

Commodity futures contracts, forward contracts, physical commodities, and related options are recorded on the trade date. All such transactions are recorded on the identified cost basis and marked to market daily. Unrealized gains or losses on open contracts are reflected in the statements of financial condition and represent the difference between the original contract amount and the market value (as determined by exchange settlement prices for futures contracts and related options and cash dealer prices at a predetermined time for forward contracts, physical commodities, and their related options) as of the last business day of the year or as of the last date of the financial statements. Changes in the unrealized gains or losses between periods are reflected in the statements of operations. UNG earns income on funds held at the custodian or futures commission merchant (“FCM”) at prevailing market rates earned on such investments.

 

Investments in OTC total return swap contracts (see Note 5) are arrangements to exchange a periodic payment for a market-linked return, each based on a notional amount. To the extent that the total return of the commodity future, security or index underlying the transaction exceeds or falls short of the offsetting periodic payment obligation, UNG receives a payment from, or makes a payment to, the swap counterparty. The OTC swap contracts are valued daily based upon the appreciation or depreciation of the underlying securities subsequent to the effective date of the contract. Changes in the value of the swaps are reported as unrealized gains and losses and periodic payments are recorded as realized gains or losses in the accompanying statements of operations.

 

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Brokerage Commissions

 

Brokerage commissions on all open commodity futures contracts are accrued on a full-turn basis.

 

Income Taxes

 

UNG is not subject to federal income taxes; each partner reports his/her allocable share of income, gain, loss deductions or credits on his/her own income tax return.

 

In accordance with U.S. GAAP, UNG is required to determine whether a tax position is more likely than not to be sustained upon examination by the applicable taxing authority, including resolution of any tax related appeals or litigation processes, based on the technical merits of the position. UNG files an income tax return in the U.S. federal jurisdiction, and may file income tax returns in various U.S. states. UNG is not subject to income tax return examinations by major taxing authorities for years before 2013. The tax benefit recognized is measured as the largest amount of benefit that has a greater than fifty percent likelihood of being realized upon ultimate settlement. De-recognition of a tax benefit previously recognized results in UNG recording a tax liability that reduces net assets. However, UNG’s conclusions regarding this policy may be subject to review and adjustment at a later date based on factors including, but not limited to, on-going analysis of and changes to tax laws, regulations and interpretations thereof. UNG recognizes interest accrued related to unrecognized tax benefits and penalties related to unrecognized tax benefits in income tax fees payable, if assessed. No interest expense or penalties have been recognized as of and for the year ended December 31, 2016.

 

Creations and Redemptions

 

Authorized Participants may purchase Creation Baskets or redeem Redemption Baskets only in blocks of 100,000 shares at a price equal to the NAV of the shares calculated shortly after the close of the core trading session on the NYSE Arca on the day the order is placed.

 

UNG receives or pays the proceeds from shares sold or redeemed within three business days after the trade date of the purchase or redemption. The amounts due from Authorized Participants are reflected in UNG’s statements of financial condition as receivable for shares sold, and amounts payable to Authorized Participants upon redemption are reflected as payable for shares redeemed.

 

Authorized Participants pay UNG a transaction fee of $1,000 for each order placed to create one or more Creation Baskets or to redeem one or more Redemption Baskets.

 

Partnership Capital and Allocation of Partnership Income and Losses

 

Profit or loss shall be allocated among the partners of UNG in proportion to the number of shares each partner holds as of the close of each month. USCF may revise, alter or otherwise modify this method of allocation as described in the LP Agreement.

 

Calculation of Per Share Net Asset Value (“NAV”)

 

UNG’s per share NAV is calculated on each NYSE Arca trading day by taking the current market value of its total assets, subtracting any liabilities and dividing that amount by the total number of shares outstanding. UNG uses the closing price for the contracts on the relevant exchange on that day to determine the value of contracts held on such exchange.

 

Net Income (Loss) Per Share

 

Net income (loss) per share is the difference between the per share NAV at the beginning of each period and at the end of each period. The weighted average number of shares outstanding was computed for purposes of disclosing net income (loss) per weighted average share. The weighted average shares are equal to the number of shares outstanding at the end of the period, adjusted proportionately for shares added and redeemed based on the amount of time the shares were outstanding during such period. There were no shares held by USCF at December 31, 2016.

 

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Offering Costs

 

Offering costs incurred in connection with the registration of additional shares after the initial registration of shares are borne by UNG. These costs include registration fees paid to regulatory agencies and all legal, accounting, printing and other expenses associated with such offerings. These costs are accounted for as a deferred charge and thereafter amortized to expense over twelve months on a straight-line basis or a shorter period if warranted.

 

Cash Equivalents

 

Cash equivalents include money market funds and overnight deposits or time deposits with original maturity dates of six months or less.

 

Reclassification

 

Certain amounts in the accompanying financial statements were reclassified to conform to the current presentation.

 

Use of Estimates

 

The preparation of financial statements in conformity with U.S. GAAP requires USCF to make estimates and assumptions that affect the reported amount of assets and liabilities and disclosure of contingent assets and liabilities at the date of the financial statements, and the reported amounts of the revenue and expenses during the reporting period. Actual results may differ from those estimates and assumptions.

 

Other

 

On February 21, 2012, after the close of the NYSE Arca, UNG effected a 4-for-1 reverse share split and post-split shares of UNG began trading on February 22, 2012. The audited financial statements in this annual report on Form 10-K are presented in accordance with Accounting Standards Codification 260 for purposes of presenting the 4-for-1 reverse split on a historical basis for all periods reported.

 

NOTE 3 - FEES PAID BY THE FUND AND RELATED PARTY TRANSACTIONS

 

USCF Management Fee

 

Under the LP Agreement, USCF is responsible for investing the assets of UNG in accordance with the objectives and policies of UNG. In addition, USCF has arranged for one or more third parties to provide administrative, custody, accounting, transfer agency and other necessary services to UNG. For these services, UNG is contractually obligated to pay USCF a fee, which is paid monthly, that is equal to 0.60% per annum of average daily total net assets of $1,000,000,000 or less and 0.50% per annum of average daily total net assets that are greater than $1,000,000,000.

 

Ongoing Registration Fees and Other Offering Expenses

 

UNG pays all costs and expenses associated with the ongoing registration of its shares subsequent to the initial offering. These costs include registration or other fees paid to regulatory agencies in connection with the offer and sale of shares, and all legal, accounting, printing and other expenses associated with such offer and sale. For the years ended December 31, 2016, 2015 and 2014, UNG incurred $404,792, $379,106 and $238,716 respectively, in registration fees and other offering expenses.

 

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Independent Directors’ and Officers’ Expenses

  

UNG is responsible for paying its portion of the directors’ and officers’ liability insurance for UNG and the Related Public Funds and the fees and expenses of the independent directors who also serve as audit committee members of UNG and the Related Public Funds. UNG shares the fees and expenses on a pro rata basis with each Related Public Fund, as described above, based on the relative assets of each fund computed on a daily basis. These fees and expenses for the year ended December 31, 2016 were $582,050 for UNG and the Related Public Funds. UNG’s portion of such fees and expenses for the year ended December 31, 2016 was $94,521. For the year ended December 31, 2015, these fees and expenses were $569,303 for UNG and the Related Public Funds. UNG’s portion of such fees and expenses for the year ended December 31, 2015 was $118,994. For the year ended December 31, 2014, these fees and expenses were $567,863 for UNG and the Related Public Funds. UNG’s portion of such fees and expenses for the year ended December 31, 2014 was $191,887.

 

Licensing Fees

 

As discussed in Note 4 below, UNG entered into a licensing agreement with the NYMEX on April 10, 2006, as amended on October 20, 2011. Pursuant to the agreement, through October 19, 2011, UNG and the Related Public Funds, other than BNO, USCI, CPER and USAG paid a licensing fee that was equal to 0.04% for the first $1,000,000,000 of combined net assets of the funds and 0.02% for combined net assets above $1,000,000,000. On and after October 20, 2011, UNG and the Related Public Funds, other than BNO, USCI, CPER, USAG and USMI, pay a licensing fee that is equal to 0.015% on all net assets. During the years ended December 31, 2016, 2015 and 2014, UNG incurred $81,594, $91,139 and $108,418, respectively, under this arrangement.

 

Investor Tax Reporting Cost

 

The fees and expenses associated with UNG’s audit expenses and tax accounting and reporting requirements are paid by UNG. These costs were approximately $400,000, $800,000 and $1,250,000 for the years ended December 31, 2016, 2015 and 2014. Tax reporting costs fluctuate between years due to the number of shareholders during any given year.

 

Other Expenses and Fees

 

In addition to the fees described above, UNG pays all brokerage fees, transaction costs for OTC swaps, if any, taxes and other expenses in connection with the operation of UNG, excluding costs and expenses paid by USCF as outlined in “Note 4- Contracts and Agreements” below.

 

NOTE 4 - CONTRACTS AND AGREEMENTS

 

Marketing Agent Agreement

 

UNG is party to a marketing agent agreement, dated as of April 17, 2007, as amended from time to time, with the Marketing Agent and USCF, whereby the Marketing Agent provides certain marketing services for UNG as outlined in the agreement. The fees of the Marketing Agent, which are borne by USCF, are equal to 0.06% on UNG’s assets up to $3 billion and 0.04% on UNG’s assets in excess of $3 billion. In no event may the aggregate compensation paid to the Marketing Agent and any affiliate of USCF for distribution-related services exceed 10% of the gross proceeds of UNG’s offering.

 

The above fees do not include website construction and development, which are also borne by USCF.

 

Brown Brothers Harriman & Co. Agreements

 

UNG is also party to a custodian agreement, dated March 5, 2007, as amended from time to time, with Brown Brothers Harriman & Co. (“BBH&Co.”) and USCF, whereby BBH&Co. holds investments on behalf of UNG. USCF pays the fees of the custodian, which are determined by the parties from time to time. In addition, UNG is party to an administrative agency agreement, dated March 5, 2007, as amended from time to time, with USCF and BBH&Co., whereby BBH&Co. acts as the administrative agent, transfer agent and registrar for UNG. USCF also pays the fees of BBH&Co. for its services under such agreement and such fees are determined by the parties from time to time.

 

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Currently, USCF pays BBH&Co. for its services, in the foregoing capacities, a minimum amount of $75,000 annually for its custody, fund accounting and fund administration services rendered to UNG and each of the Related Public Funds, as well as a $20,000 annual fee for its transfer agency services. In addition, USCF pays BBH&Co. an asset-based charge of (a) 0.06% for the first $500 million of the Related Public Funds’ combined net assets, (b) 0.0465% for the Related Public Funds’ combined net assets greater than $500 million but less than $1 billion, and (c) 0.035% once the Related Public Funds’ combined net assets exceed $1 billion. The annual minimum amount will not apply if the asset-based charge for all accounts in the aggregate exceeds $75,000. USCF also pays BBH&Co. transaction fees ranging from $7 to $15 per transaction.

 

Brokerage and Futures Commission Merchant Agreements

 

On October 8, 2013, UNG entered into a brokerage agreement with RBC Capital Markets, LLC (“RBC Capital” or “RBC”) to serve as UNG’s FCM effective October 10, 2013. The agreement with RBC requires it to provide services to UNG in connection with the purchase and sale of Futures Contracts and Other Natural Gas-Related Investments that may be purchased and sold by or through RBC Capital for UNG’s account. In accordance with the agreement, RBC Capital charges UNG commissions of approximately $2 to $10 per round-turn trade, including applicable exchange, clearing and NFA fees for Natural Gas Futures Contracts and options on Natural Gas Futures Contracts. Such fees include those incurred when purchasing Natural Gas Futures Contracts and options on Natural Gas Futures Contracts when UNG issues shares as a result of a Creation Basket, as well as fees incurred when selling Natural Gas Futures Contracts and options on Natural Gas Futures Contracts when UNG redeems shares as a result of a Redemption Basket. Such fees are also incurred when Natural Gas Futures Contracts and options on Natural Gas Futures Contracts are purchased or redeemed for the purpose of rebalancing the portfolio. UNG also incurs commissions to brokers for the purchase and sale of Natural Gas Futures Contracts, Other Natural Gas-Related Investments or short-term obligations of the United States of two years or less (“Treasuries”).

 

   For the Year Ended
December 31, 2016
   For the Year Ended
December 31, 2015
   For the Year Ended
December 31, 2014
 
Total commissions accrued to brokers  $2,000,888   $2,371,433   $2,001,949 
Total commissions as an annualized percentage of average total net assets   0.37%   0.39%   0.28%
Commissions accrued as a result of rebalancing  $1,872,019   $2,089,974   $1,623,581 
Percentage of commissions accrued as a result of rebalancing   93.56%   88.13%   81.10%
Commissions accrued as a result of creation and redemption activity  $128,869   $281,459   $378,368 
Percentage of commissions accrued as a result of creation and redemption activity   6.44%   11.87%   18.90%

 

The decrease in the total commissions accrued to brokers for the year ended December 31, 2016 as compared to the year ended December 31, 2015, was primarily a result of decreased brokerage fees due to a lower number of natural gas futures contracts in which UNG invested. The increase in the total commissions accrued to brokers for the year ended December 31, 2015 as compared to the year ended December 31, 2014 was primarily a result of increased brokerage fees due to a higher number of natural gas futures contracts in which UNG invested. However, there can be no assurance that commission costs and portfolio turnover will not cause commission expenses to rise in future quarters.

 

NYMEX Licensing Agreement

 

UNG and the NYMEX entered into a licensing agreement on April 10, 2006, as amended on October 20, 2011, whereby UNG was granted a non-exclusive license to use certain of the NYMEX’s settlement prices and service marks. Under the licensing agreement, UNG and the Related Public Funds, other than BNO, USCI, CPER and USAG, pay the NYMEX an asset-based fee for the license, the terms of which are described in Note 3. UNG expressly disclaims any association with the NYMEX or endorsement of UNG by the NYMEX and acknowledges that “NYMEX” and “New York Mercantile Exchange” are registered trademarks of the NYMEX.

 

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NOTE 5 - FINANCIAL INSTRUMENTS, OFF-BALANCE SHEET RISKS AND CONTINGENCIES

 

UNG may engage in the trading of futures contracts, options on futures contracts and swaps (collectively, “derivatives”). UNG is exposed to both market risk, which is the risk arising from changes in the market value of the contracts, and credit risk, which is the risk of failure by another party to perform according to the terms of a contract.

 

UNG may enter into futures contracts, options on futures contracts, cleared swaps and OTC swaps to gain exposure to changes in the value of an underlying commodity. A futures contract obligates the seller to deliver (and the purchaser to accept) the future delivery of a specified quantity and type of a commodity at a specified time and place. Some futures contracts may call for physical delivery of the asset, while others are settled in cash. The contractual obligations of a buyer or seller may generally be satisfied by taking or making physical delivery of the underlying commodity or by making an offsetting sale or purchase of an identical futures contract on the same or linked exchange before the designated date of delivery. Cleared swaps are agreements that are eligible to be cleared by a clearinghouse, e.g., ICE Clear Europe and provide the efficiencies and benefits that centralized clearing on an exchange offers to traders of futures contracts, including credit risk intermediation and the ability to offset positions initiated with different counterparties.

 

The purchase and sale of futures contracts, options on futures contracts and swaps require margin deposits with an FCM. Additional deposits may be necessary for any loss on contract value. The Commodity Exchange Act requires an FCM to segregate all customer transactions and assets from the FCM’s proprietary activities.

 

Futures contracts, options on futures contracts and cleared swaps involve, to varying degrees, elements of market risk (specifically commodity price risk) and exposure to loss in excess of the amount of variation margin. The face or contract amounts reflect the extent of the total exposure UNG has in the particular classes of instruments. Additional risks associated with the use of futures contracts are an imperfect correlation between movements in the price of the futures contracts and the market value of the underlying securities and the possibility of an illiquid market for a futures contract. Buying and selling options on futures contracts exposes investors to the risks of purchasing or selling futures contracts.

 

All of UNG’s investment contracts were exchange-traded futures contracts through December 31, 2016. The risks associated with exchange-traded contracts are generally perceived to be less than those associated with OTC swaps since, in OTC swaps, a party must rely solely on the credit of its respective individual counterparties. As of December 31, 2015, UNG maintained no OTC swap transactions. The OTC swap transaction with JPMorgan Chase Bank, NA was terminated effective April 23, 2014. However, in the future, if UNG were to enter into non-exchange traded contracts, it would be subject to the credit risk associated with counterparty non-performance. The credit risk from counterparty non-performance associated with such instruments is the net unrealized gain, if any, on the transaction. UNG has credit risk under its futures contracts since the sole counterparty to all domestic and foreign futures contracts is the clearinghouse for the exchange on which the relevant contracts are traded. In addition, UNG bears the risk of financial failure by the clearing broker.

 

At December 31, 2016, UNG’s counterparties posted $0 in cash and $0 in securities as collateral with UNG’s custodian, as compared with $0 in cash and $0 in securities for the year ended December 31, 2015. Under these agreements, UNG posted collateral with respect to its obligations of $0 in cash and $0 in securities, such as Treasuries, at December 31, 2016, as compared with $0 in cash and $0 in securities at December 31, 2015.

 

UNG’s cash and other property, such as Treasuries, deposited with an FCM are considered commingled with all other customer funds, subject to the FCM’s segregation requirements. In the event of an FCM’s insolvency, recovery may be limited to a pro rata share of segregated funds available. It is possible that the recovered amount could be less than the total of cash and other property deposited. The insolvency of an FCM could result in the complete loss of UNG’s assets posted with that FCM; however, the majority of UNG’s assets are held in Treasuries, cash and/or cash equivalents with UNG’s custodian and would not be impacted by the insolvency of an FCM. The failure or insolvency of UNG’s custodian, however, could result in a substantial loss of UNG’s assets.

 

 77 

 

 

USCF invests a portion of UNG’s cash in money market funds that seek to maintain a stable per share NAV. UNG is exposed to any risk of loss associated with an investment in such money market funds. As of December 31, 2016 and December 31, 2015, UNG held investments in money market funds in the amounts of $50,000,000 and $30,000,000, respectively. UNG also holds cash deposits with its custodian. Pursuant to a written agreement with BBH&Co., uninvested overnight cash balances are swept to offshore branches of U.S. regulated and domiciled banks located in Toronto, Canada, London, United Kingdom, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands and Nassau, Bahamas, which are subject to U.S. regulation and regulatory oversight. As of December 31, 2016 and December 31, 2015, UNG held cash deposits and investments in Treasuries in the amounts of $517,786,082 and $448,772,036, respectively, with the custodian and FCM. Some or all of these amounts may be subject to loss should UNG’s custodian and/or FCM cease operations.

 

For derivatives, risks arise from changes in the market value of the contracts. Theoretically, UNG is exposed to market risk equal to the value of futures contracts purchased and unlimited liability on such contracts sold short. As both a buyer and a seller of options, UNG pays or receives a premium at the outset and then bears the risk of unfavorable changes in the price of the contract underlying the option.

 

UNG’s policy is to continuously monitor its exposure to market and counterparty risk through the use of a variety of financial, position and credit exposure reporting controls and procedures. In addition, UNG has a policy of requiring review of the credit standing of each broker or counterparty with which it conducts business.

 

The financial instruments held by UNG are reported in its statements of financial condition at market or fair value, or at carrying amounts that approximate fair value, because of their highly liquid nature and short-term maturity.

 

NOTE 6 - FINANCIAL HIGHLIGHTS

 

The following table presents per share performance data and other supplemental financial data for the years ended December 31, 2016, 2015 and 2014. This information has been derived from information presented in the financial statements.

 

   Year ended
December 31, 2016
   Year ended
December 31, 2015
   Year ended
December 31, 2014
 
             
Per Share Operating Performance:               
Net asset value, beginning of year  $8.69   $14.63   $20.59 
Total income (loss)   0.69    (5.78)   (5.70)
Total expenses   (0.09)   (0.16)   (0.26)
Net increase (decrease) in net asset value   0.60    (5.94)   (5.96)
Net asset value, end of year  $9.29   $8.69   $14.63 
                
Total Return   6.90%   (40.60)%   (28.95)%
                
Ratios to Average Net Assets               
Total income (loss)   19.27%   (39.08)%   (23.36)%
Management fees   0.60%   0.60%   0.60%
Expenses excluding management fees   0.52%   0.67%   0.54%
Net income (loss)   18.15%   (40.35)%   (24.51)%

 

Total returns are calculated based on the change in value during the period. An individual shareholder’s total return and ratio may vary from the above total returns and ratios based on the timing of contributions to and withdrawals from UNG.

 

 78 

 

 

NOTE 7 - QUARTERLY FINANCIAL DATA (Unaudited)

 

The following summarized (unaudited) quarterly financial information presents the results of operations and other data for three-month periods ended March 31, June 30, September 30 and December 31, 2016 and 2015.

 

   First   Second   Third   Fourth 
   Quarter   Quarter   Quarter   Quarter 
    2016    2016    2016    2016 
Total income (loss)  $(113,577,426)  $153,225,194   $(18,658,356)  $83,842,384 
Total expenses   1,479,702    1,571,572    1,449,083    1,599,257 
Net income (loss)  $(115,057,128)  $151,653,622   $(20,107,439)  $82,243,127 
Net income (loss) per share  $(2.05)  $2.01   $(0.32)  $0.96 

  

   First   Second   Third   Fourth 
   Quarter   Quarter   Quarter   Quarter 
    2015    2015    2015    2015 
Total Income (Loss)  $(41,358,622)  $34,038,791   $(86,678,980)  $(143,426,543)
Total Expenses   2,051,706    2,103,468    1,956,063    1,604,432 
Net Income (Loss)  $(43,410,328)  $31,935,323   $(88,635,043)  $(145,030,975)
Net Income (Loss) per Share  $(1.37)  $0.33   $(1.99)  $(2.91)

 

NOTE 8 - FAIR VALUE OF FINANCIAL INSTRUMENTS

 

UNG values its investments in accordance with Accounting Standards Codification 820 – Fair Value Measurements and Disclosures (“ASC 820”). ASC 820 defines fair value, establishes a framework for measuring fair value in generally accepted accounting principles, and expands disclosures about fair value measurement. The changes to past practice resulting from the application of ASC 820 relate to the definition of fair value, the methods used to measure fair value, and the expanded disclosures about fair value measurement. ASC 820 establishes a fair value hierarchy that distinguishes between: (1) market participant assumptions developed based on market data obtained from sources independent of UNG (observable inputs) and (2) UNG’s own assumptions about market participant assumptions developed based on the best information available under the circumstances (unobservable inputs). The three levels defined by the ASC 820 hierarchy are as follows:

 

Level I – Quoted prices (unadjusted) in active markets for identical assets or liabilities that the reporting entity has the ability to access at the measurement date.

 

Level II – Inputs other than quoted prices included within Level I that are observable for the asset or liability, either directly or indirectly. Level II assets include the following: quoted prices for similar assets or liabilities in active markets, quoted prices for identical or similar assets or liabilities in markets that are not active, inputs other than quoted prices that are observable for the asset or liability, and inputs that are derived principally from or corroborated by observable market data by correlation or other means (market-corroborated inputs).

 

Level III – Unobservable pricing input at the measurement date for the asset or liability. Unobservable inputs shall be used to measure fair value to the extent that observable inputs are not available.

 

 79 

 

 

In some instances, the inputs used to measure fair value might fall within different levels of the fair value hierarchy. The level in the fair value hierarchy within which the fair value measurement in its entirety falls shall be determined based on the lowest input level that is significant to the fair value measurement in its entirety.

 

The following table summarizes the valuation of UNG’s securities at December 31, 2016 using the fair value hierarchy:

 

At December 31, 2016  Total   Level I   Level II   Level III 
Short-Term Investments  $484,298,065   $484,298,065   $   $ 
Exchange-Traded Futures Contracts   37,435,507    37,435,507         

 

During the year ended December 31, 2016, there were no transfers between Level I and Level II.

 

The following table summarizes the valuation of UNG’s securities at December 31, 2015 using the fair value hierarchy:

 

At December 31, 2015  Total   Level I   Level II   Level III 
Short-Term Investments  $411,698,465   $411,698,465   $   $ 
Exchange-Traded Futures Contracts   101,409,342    101,409,342         

 

During the year ended December 31, 2015, there were no transfers between Level I and Level II.

 

Effective January 1, 2009, UNG adopted the provisions of Accounting Standards Codification 815 — Derivatives and Hedging, which require presentation of qualitative disclosures about objectives and strategies for using derivatives, quantitative disclosures about fair value amounts and gains and losses on derivatives.

 

Fair Value of Derivative Instruments

 

Derivatives not Accounted for
as Hedging Instruments
  Statements of
Financial
Condition Location
  Fair Value At
December 31, 2016
   Fair Value At
December 31, 2015
 
Futures –Commodity Contracts  Assets  $37,435,507   $101,409,342 

 

The Effect of Derivative Instruments on the Statements of Operations

  

      For the year ended   For the year ended   For the year ended 
      December 31, 2016   December 31, 2015   December 31, 2014 
          Change in       Change in       Change in 
   Location of  Realized Gain   Unrealized   Realized Gain   Unrealized   Realized Gain   Unrealized 
   Gain  (Loss) on   Gain   (Loss) on   Gain   (Loss) on   Gain 
Derivatives  (Loss) on  Derivatives   (Loss) on   Derivatives   (Loss) on   Derivatives   (Loss) on 
not Accounted  Derivatives  Recognized   Derivatives   Recognized   Derivatives   Recognized   Derivatives 
for as Hedging  Recognized  in   Recognized   in   Recognized   in   Recognized 
Instruments  in Income  Income   in Income   Income   in Income   Income   in Income 
Futures –
Commodity Contracts
  Realized gain (loss) on closed futures positions  $166,847,846        $(507,207,349)       $(47,954,734)     
   Change in unrealized gain (loss) on open futures positions       $(63,973,835)       $269,221,125        $(153,777,873)
Swaps –
Commodity Contracts
  Realized gain (loss) on closed swap contracts  $-        $-        $25,690,444      
   Change in unrealized gain (loss) on open swap contracts       $-        $-        $6,654,820 

  

 80 

 

 

NOTE 9 – RECENT ACCOUNTING PRONOUNCEMENTS

 

In August 2015, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (“FASB”) issued Accounting Standard Update (“ASU”) 2015-14, Revenue from Contracts with Customers, modifying ASU 2014-09. The core principle of the guidance is that an entity should recognize revenue to depict the transfer of promised goods or services to customers in an amount that reflects the consideration to which the entity expects to be entitled in exchange for those goods or services. ASU 2015-14 is effective for fiscal years beginning on or after December 15, 2016, and interim periods within those annual periods. Early application is permitted. At this time, management does not believe there will be any impact to the Fund’s financial statements.

 

NOTE 10 – SUBSEQUENT EVENTS

 

UNG has performed an evaluation of subsequent events through the date the financial statements were issued. This evaluation did not result in any subsequent events that necessitated disclosures and/or adjustments.

 

81 

 

  

United States Commodity Funds LLC

____________

  

 

Contents

 

 

  Page
   
Report of Independent Registered Public Accounting Firm F - 1
   
Statements of Financial Condition F - 2
   
Notes to Statements of Financial Condition F - 3

 

 

 

 

 

Report of Independent Registered Public Accounting Firm

 

 

To the Board of Directors and Member of
United States Commodity Funds LLC

 

We have audited the accompanying statements of financial condition of United States Commodity Funds LLC (the “Company”) as of December 31, 2016 and 2015. The Company’s management is responsible for these financial statements. Our responsibility is to express an opinion on these financial statements based on our audits.

 

We conducted our audits in accordance with the standards of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (United States). Those standards require that we plan and perform the audits to obtain reasonable assurance about whether the financial statements are free of material misstatement. The Company is not required to have, nor were we engaged to perform, an audit of its internal control over financial reporting. Our audits included consideration of internal control over financial reporting as a basis for designing audit procedures that are appropriate in the circumstances, but not for the purpose of expressing an opinion on the effectiveness of the Company’s internal control over financial reporting. Accordingly, we express no such opinion. An audit also includes examining, on a test basis, evidence supporting the amounts and disclosures in the financial statements, assessing the accounting principles used and significant estimates made by management, as well as evaluating the overall financial statement presentation.

We believe that our audits provide a reasonable basis for our opinion.

 

In our opinion, the financial statements referred to above present fairly, in all material respects, the financial position of United States Commodity Funds LLC as of December 31, 2016 and 2015 in conformity with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America.

 

 

/s/ BPM LLP

 

San Francisco, California

February 24, 2017

 

 

 

 F - 1

 

 

 

United States Commodity Funds LLC

 

Statements of Financial Condition

 

December 31, 2016 and 2015

____________

 

   2016   2015 
ASSETS          
           
Current assets:          
Cash and cash equivalents  $5,941,128   $1,796,767 
Short-term investments   1,041    966 
Management fees receivable - related party   2,199,866    1,933,672 
Prepaid income taxes   931,556    508,070 
Other current assets   100,526    36,251 
           
Total current assets   9,174,117    4,275,726 
           
Deferred tax assets, net   1,085,720    1,162,919 
Other assets   8,558    8,558 
           
Total assets  $10,268,395   $5,447,203 
           
LIABILITIES AND MEMBER'S EQUITY          
           
Current liabilities:          
Accounts payable and accrued liabilities  $1,695,149   $1,281,780 
Dividend payable - related party   2,000,000    - 
Expense waivers payable - related party   939,385    760,973 
           
Total current liabilities   4,634,534    2,042,753 
           
Commitments and contingencies (Note 5)          
           
Member's equity   5,633,861    3,404,450 
           
Total liabilities and member's equity  $10,268,395   $5,447,203 

 

The accompanying notes are an integral
part of these statements of financial condition.

 

 

 F - 2

 

 

 

United States Commodity Funds LLC

 

Notes to Statements of Financial Condition

 

December 31, 2016 and 2015

____________

 

1.Business

 

In May 2005, United States Commodity Funds, LLC (“USCF” or the “Company”), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Wainwright Holdings Inc. (“Wainwright”), was formed as a single member limited liability company in the State of Delaware. On December 9, 2016, Wainwright was acquired by Concierge Technologies, Inc., (“Concierge”) a public company (“CNCG”) currently traded on the OTC Markets QB Exchange with majority ownership held by two shareholders who also are majority owners of Wainwright. CNCG will continue to operate USCF as an independent wholly-owned subsidiary of Wainwright. USCF will also maintain its current independent and management director structure. USCF is a registered commodity pool operator with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC”) and a member of the National Futures Association (“NFA”) and serves as the General Partner (“General Partner”) for various limited partnerships (“LP”) as noted below.

 

The Company’s operating activities consist primarily of providing management services to eleven public funds.

 

The Company is currently the General Partner in the following Securities Act of 1933 LP commodity based index funds and Sponsor (“Sponsor”) for the fund series within the United States Commodity Index Funds Trust (“USCIF Trust”):

 

USCF as General Partner for the following Funds
United States Oil Fund, LP (“USO”) Organized as a Delaware limited partnership in May 2005
United States Natural Gas Fund, LP (“UNG”) Organized as a Delaware limited partnership in November 2006
United States Gasoline Fund, LP (“UGA”) Organized as a Delaware limited partnership in April 2007
United States Diesel Heating Oil Fund, LP (“UHN”) Organized as a Delaware limited partnership in April 2007
United States 12 Month Oil Fund, LP (“USL”) Organized as a Delaware limited partnership in June 2007
United States 12 Month Natural Gas Fund, LP (“UNL”) Organized as a Delaware limited partnership in June 2007
United States Short Oil Fund, LP (“DNO”) Organized as a Delaware limited partnership in June 2008
United States Brent Oil Fund, LP (“BNO”) Organized as a Delaware limited partnership in September 2009
USCF as fund Sponsor - each a series within the USCIF Trust
United States Commodity Index Funds Trust (“USCIF Trust”) A series trust formed in Delaware December 2009
     United States Commodity Index Fund (“USCI”) A commodity pool formed in April 2010 and made public August 2010
     United States Copper Index Fund (“CPER”) A commodity pool formed in November 2010 and made public November 2011
     United States Agriculture Index Fund (“USAG”) A commodity pool formed in November 2010 and made public April 2012
     United States Metal Index Fund (“USMI”) A commodity pool formed in November 2010, and made public June 2012, ceased trading and liquidated March 2015

 

The USCIF Trust currently has a new fund, USCF Canadian Crude Oil Index Fund (“UCCO”), in registration. In addition, USCF is the sponsor of the USCF Funds Trust, a Delaware statutory trust, and each of its series, the REX S&P MLP Fund, the REX S&P MLP Inverse Fund, the United States 3X Oil Fund and the United States 3X Short Oil Fund, all of which are funds that are currently in registration and have not commenced operations.  All USCF funds are collectively referred to as the “Funds” hereafter.

 

 

Continued

 

 

 F - 3

 

 

 

United States Commodity Funds LLC

 

Notes to Statements of Financial Condition

 

December 31, 2016 and 2015

____________

 

2.Summary of Significant Accounting Policies

 

Basis of Presentation and Consolidation

 

The accompanying statements of financial condition of the Company have been prepared on the accrual basis of accounting in conformity with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America (“U.S. GAAP”).

 

Use of Estimates

 

The preparation of financial statements in conformity with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America requires management to make estimates and assumptions that affect the reported amounts of assets and liabilities, the disclosure of contingent assets and liabilities at the date of the financial statements, and the reported amounts of revenue and expenses during the reporting period. Actual results could differ from those estimates.

 

Revenue Recognition

 

The Company recognizes revenue under the Funds’ respective Limited Partnership Agreements, as amended from time to time (the “Limited Partnership Agreements”) and the Trust Agreement, as amended from time to time (the “Trust Agreement”). These Agreements provide for fees based upon a percentage of the daily average net asset value of the Funds. The Company is responsible for investing the assets of the Funds in accordance with the objectives and policies of the respective Funds. In addition, The Company has arranged for one or more third parties to provide administrative, custody, accounting, transfer agency and other necessary services to the Funds and is contractually obligated to pay for these services. The Funds are contractually obligated to pay the Company a management fee, which is paid monthly, based on the average daily net assets of the Funds.

 

USO pays a management fee of 0.45% (45 basis points) per annum on its average daily net assets. UNG pays a fee equal to 0.60% (60 basis points) per annum on average daily net assets of $1,000,000,000 or less and 0.50% (50 basis points) of average daily net assets that are greater than $1,000,000,000. USL, UGA, UHN, and DNO each pay a fee of 0.60% (60 basis points) per annum on their average daily net assets. From inception through April 30, 2010, the Company has been charging UNL a management fee at a reduced rate of 0.60% (60 basis points) per annum of average daily net assets. Effective May 1, 2010, the Company resumed charging UNL its standard rate of 0.75% (75 basis points) per annum of average daily net assets. The difference of 0.15% (15 basis points) per annum of average daily net assets since inception through April 30, 2010 has been waived by the Company and will not be recouped from UNL. BNO pays a management fee of 0.75% (75 basis points) per annum on its average daily net assets.

 

Effective January 1, 2014 and continuing through December 31, 2015, the Company contractually agreed to lower the management fee for USCI to 0.80% (80 basis points), 0.65% (65 basis points) for CPER and 0.65% (65 basis points) for USAG, per annum on its average daily net assets. Effective January 1, 2016, the Company permanently lowered the management fee to 0.80% (80 basis points) for USCI, 0.65% (65 basis points) for CPER and 0.65% (65 basis points) for USAG, per annum on its average daily net assets.

 

Management fees are recognized in the period earned in accordance with the terms of their respective agreements.

 

 

Continued

 

 

 F - 4

 

 

 

United States Commodity Funds LLC

 

Notes to Statements of Financial Condition

 

December 31, 2016 and 2015

____________

 

 

2.Summary of Significant Accounting Policies, continued

 

Expense Waivers

 

The Company has voluntarily agreed to pay certain expenses normally borne by UGA, UHN, DNO, UNL, BNO, CPER and USAG to the extent such expenses exceed 0.15% (15 basis points) of the respective fund’s average daily net assets, on an annualized basis. The Company has no obligation to continue such payments into subsequent periods. These expenses totaled $939,385 and $760,973 for the years ended December 31, 2016 and 2015, respectively, and are included in general and administrative expense. Expense waivers payable totaled $939,385 and $760,973 as of December 31, 2016 and 2015, respectively.

 

Fund Startup Expenses

 

The Company expenses all startup expenses associated with the registration of each fund and the expense is charged to general and administrative expense. Fund startup expenses include costs relating to the initial registration of shares and include, but are not limited to, legal fees pertaining to the initial registration of shares, SEC and FINRA registration fees, initial fees to be listed on an exchange, and other similar costs.

 

The Funds pay for all brokerage fees, taxes and other expenses, including registration or other fees paid to the SEC, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”) formerly the National Association of Securities Dealers, or any other regulatory agency in connection with the offer and sale of subsequent shares after their initial registration and all legal, accounting, printing and other expenses associated therewith.

 

Cash and Cash Equivalents

 

The Company considers all highly liquid investments with original maturities of three months or less at the date of purchase to be cash equivalents. The Company places its cash with various high credit quality institutions. At times, the Company maintains cash deposits in excess of the United States Federal Deposit Corporation coverage of $250,000, but the Company does not expect any losses.

 

Management Fees Receivable – Related Party

 

Management fees receivable generally consist of one month of management fees which are collected in the month after they are earned.

 

Management closely monitors receivables and records an allowance for any balances that are determined to be uncollectible. As of December 31, 2016 and 2015, the Company considered all remaining accounts receivable to be fully collectible.

 

Investments

 

Management determines the appropriate classification of investments at the time of purchase based upon management’s intent with respect to such investments. Short-term investments consist of equities and money market funds. Short-term investments are classified as available-for-sale securities. The Company measures the investments at estimated fair value at period end with any changes in estimated fair value reflected as unrealized gains (losses) in the accumulated other comprehensive income (loss).

 

Continued

 

 

 F - 5

 

 

 

United States Commodity Funds LLC

 

Notes to Statements of Financial Condition

 

December 31, 2016 and 2015

____________

 

2.Summary of Significant Accounting Policies, continued

 

Comprehensive Income (Loss)

 

The Company reports all changes in equity during the year, except those resulting from investment by its member and distributions to its member, in the year in which they are recognized. Comprehensive income is the total of net income (loss) and other comprehensive income (loss). The Company recognized $75 of other comprehensive income and $707 of other comprehensive loss in 2016 and 2015, respectively, related to changes in unrealized losses on investments.

 

Fair Value Measurements

 

The Company’s short-term investments are carried at estimated fair value. In determining fair value, the Company follows the guidance of Financial Accounting Standards Board (“FASB”) Accounting Standards Codification (“ASC”) 820, Fair Value Measurement (“ASC 820”). Under ASC 820, the fair value is defined as the price that would be received upon the sale of an asset or paid to transfer a liability (i.e., the exit price) in an orderly transaction between market participants at the measurement date.

 

ASC 820 establishes a fair value hierarchy based on the lowest level input that is significant to the fair value measurement in its entirety:

 

Level 1 – Quoted prices in active markets that are accessible at the measurement date for identical, unrestricted assets or liabilities, without adjustment.

 

Level 2 – Quoted prices in markets that are not considered to be active for identical or similar assets or liabilities, quoted prices in active markets of similar assets or liabilities, and inputs other than quoted prices that are observable or can be corroborated by observable market data.

 

Level 3 – Pricing inputs are unobservable and include situations where there is little, if any, market activity for the investment.

 

Unrealized gains and losses on investments resulting from market fluctuations are recorded in the accumulated other comprehensive income (loss) account. Realized gains or losses on sales of investments determined on a specific identification basis.

 

All short-term investments, which include money market funds and equities, are classified as Level 1 investments at December 31, 2016 and 2015. The Company has no Level 2 and 3 investments. There were no transfers between levels during the years ended December 31, 2016 and 2015.

 

Short-term investments are valued at the closing price reported on the active market on which the individual securities are traded.

 

 

Continued

 

 

 F - 6

 

 

 

United States Commodity Funds LLC

 

Notes to Statements of Financial Condition

 

December 31, 2016 and 2015

____________

 

2.Summary of Significant Accounting Policies, continued

 

Income Taxes

 

The Company has filed an election with the Internal Revenue Service to be treated as an association taxable as a corporation. The Company files a federal consolidated income tax return with entities not included on these financials. In connection with filing a consolidated federal income tax return, the tax benefit of utilizing tax losses generated by the consolidated group is not reflected on USCF’s statements of financial condition. The Company accounts for income taxes using the asset and liability method. Under this method, deferred tax assets and liabilities are recognized for the future tax consequences attributable to differences between financial statement carrying amounts of existing assets and liabilities and their respective tax bases, valuation of net operating losses and tax credit carryforwards, if any. Deferred tax assets and liabilities are measured using enacted rates expected to apply to taxable income in the years in which those temporary differences are expected to be recovered or settled. If necessary, a valuation allowance is recorded to reduce the carrying amounts of deferred tax assets until it is more likely than not that such assets will be realized.

 

The Company provides for uncertain tax positions using guidance which prescribes a recognition threshold and measurement attribute for the financial statement recognition and measurement of a tax position taken or expected to be taken in a tax return. It provides that a tax benefit from an uncertain tax position may be recognized when it is more-likely-than-not recognition threshold at the effective date to be recognized upon the adoption of the accounting standard and in subsequent periods. In addition, the accounting standard provides guidance on derecognition, classification, interest and penalties, accounting in interim periods, disclosure and transition. The Company’s policy is to recognize interest and penalties accrued on any unrecognized tax benefits as a component of income tax expense.

 

Concentration of Credit Risk

 

Concentrations of management fees receivable as of December 31, 2016 and 2015 are as follows:

 

   December 31, 2016 
Fund  Management Fees Receivable 
         
USO  $1,256,213    57%
USCI   445,163    20%
UNG   303,354    14%
All Others   195,136    9%
           
Total  $2,199,866    100%

 

   December 31, 2015 
Fund  Management Fees Receivable 
         
USCI  $1,179,092    61%
USO   359,544    19%
UNG   249,953    13%
All Others   145,083    7%
           
Total  $1,933,672    100%

 

 

Continued

 

 

 F - 7

 

 

 

United States Commodity Funds LLC

 

Notes to Statements of Financial Condition

 

December 31, 2016 and 2015

____________

 

2.Summary of Significant Accounting Policies, continued

 

Recent Accounting Pronouncements

 

In January 2016, the FASB issued Accounting Standards Update (“ASU”) No. 2016-01, Recognition and Measurement of Financial Assets and Financial Liabilities, to mainly change the accounting for investments in equity securities and financial liabilities carried at fair value as well as to modify the presentation and disclosure requirements for financial instruments. The ASU is effective for annual periods beginning after December 15, 2018, with early adoption permitted. Adoption of the ASU is retrospective with a cumulative adjustment to retained earnings or accumulated deficit as of the adoption date. The Company does not anticipate that the adoption of the ASU will have a material impact on its financial statements.

 

In February 2016, the FASB issued ASU No. 2016-02, Leases (Topic 842). The guidance in ASU No. 2016-02 supersedes the lease recognition requirements in ASC Topic 840, Leases (FAS 13). ASU 2016-02 requires an entity to recognize assets and liabilities arising from a lease for both financing and operating leases, along with additional qualitative and quantitative disclosures. ASU 2016-02 is effective for fiscal years beginning after December 15, 2018, with early adoption permitted. The Company is currently evaluating the effect this standard will have on its financial statements.

 

No other recently issued accounting pronouncements are expected to have a material impact on the Company’s financial statements.

 

3.Investments and Fair Value Measurements

 

Investments measured at estimated fair value consist of the following as of December 31, 2016 and 2015:

 

   December 31, 2016 
       Gross   Gross     
       Unrealized   Unrealized   Estimated 
   Cost   Gains   Losses   Fair Value 
                 
Money market funds  $96   $-   $-   $96 
Equities   1,577    -    (632)   945 
                     
Total short-term                    
investments  $1,673   $-   $(632)  $1,041 

 

   December 31, 2015 
       Gross   Gross     
       Unrealized   Unrealized   Estimated 
   Cost   Gains   Losses   Fair Value 
                 
Money market funds  $96   $-   $-   $96 
Equities   1,577    -    (707)   870 
                     
Total short-term                    
investments  $1,673   $-   $(707)  $966 

 

As of December 31, 2016 and 2015, the Company did not have any investments with gross unrealized losses greater than 12 months on a continuous basis.

 

 

Continued

 

 

 F - 8

 

 

 

United States Commodity Funds LLC

 

Notes to Statements of Financial Condition

 

December 31, 2016 and 2015

____________

 

4.Accumulated Other Comprehensive Income (Loss)

 

Accumulated other comprehensive income (loss) is included in member’s equity on the statements of financial condition. Changes in accumulated other comprehensive income (loss) are as follows:

 

Balance, January 1, 2015  $- 
Other comprehensive (loss)   (707)
      
Balance, December 31, 2015   (707)
Other comprehensive income   75 
      
Balance, December 31, 2016  $(632)

  

5.Commitments and Contingencies

 

Operating Leases

 

The Company leases office space in Oakland, California under an operating lease, which expires in October 2018. Rent expense was $127,985 and $108,350 for the years ended December 31, 2016 and 2015, respectively.

 

Future minimum rental payments required under the operating lease, which has remaining non-cancellable lease terms in excess of one year, are as follows:

 

For the years ending December 31:    
     
2017  $132,665 
2018   113,304 
      
   $245,969 

 

Contingencies

 

From time to time, the Company is involved in legal proceedings arising mainly from the ordinary course of its business. In management’s opinion, the legal proceedings are not expected to have a material effect on the Company’s financial position or results of operations.

  

 

Continued

 

 

 F - 9

 

 

 

United States Commodity Funds LLC

 

Notes to Statements of Financial Condition

 

December 31, 2016 and 2015

____________

 

6.Income Taxes

 

The Company has filed an election with the Internal Revenue Service to be treated as an association taxable as a corporation. The Company files a federal consolidated income tax return with entities not included on these financials. In connection with filing a consolidated federal income tax return, the tax benefit of utilizing tax losses generated by the consolidated group is not reflected on USCF’s statements of financial condition. In connection with filing a consolidated federal income tax return, the Company has recorded federal income tax expense and deferred tax assets at the legal entity level as if it was filing its own stand-alone taxes.

 

Deferred tax assets and liabilities reflect the net tax effects of temporary differences between the carrying amounts of assets and liabilities for financial reporting purposes and the amounts used for income tax purposes. Significant components of the Company’s deferred tax assets as of December 31, 2016 and 2015 are as follows:

 

   2016   2015 
         
Deferred tax assets:          
Intangible assets  $1,041,325   $1,162,919 
Capital loss carryover   6,969    20,213 
Accruals, reserves and other   44,395    - 
           
Gross deferred tax assets   1,092,689    1,183,132 
Less valuation allowance   (6,969)   (20,213)
           
Total deferred tax assets, net  $1,085,720   $1,162,919 

  

The majority of the deferred tax assets relate to startup costs associated with the organization and registration of the Funds for which the Company is a general partner and having paid such costs.

 

Realization of the deferred tax assets is dependent upon future taxable income, if any, the amount and timing of which is uncertain. Based upon available objective evidence, management believes it is more likely than not that the net deferred tax assets will not be fully realizable for capital loss carryover. Accordingly, management has established a valuation allowance related to this deferred tax asset. The valuation allowance decreased by approximately $13,000 during 2016 and $0 during 2015. The change in the valuation allowance is due to the expiration of the deferred tax asset for capital loss carryover.

 

The Company is subject to income taxes in the U.S. federal jurisdiction and various state jurisdictions. Tax regulations within each jurisdiction are subject to the interpretation of the related tax laws and regulations and require significant judgment to apply. The Company’s tax years 2012 through 2016 will remain open for examination by the federal and state authorities for three and four years, respectively. As of December 31, 2016, there were no active taxing authority examinations.

 

The Company had unrecognized tax benefits (“UTBs”) of approximately $29,000 and $15,000 as of December 31, 2016 and 2015, respectively, which would affect the effective tax rate if recognized before consideration of the valuation allowance. The Company will recognize interest and penalties, when they occur, related to uncertain tax provisions as a component of tax expense. There is no interest or penalties to be recognized for the years ended December 31, 2016 and 2015. The Company does not expect its UTBs to change significantly over the next 12 months.

 

 

Continued

 

 

 F - 10

 

 

 

United States Commodity Funds LLC

 

Notes to Statements of Financial Condition