In what must be a relief to the bulls in natural gas, the heating fuel’s prices did not go to the low $1 levels feared after a break of the $2 support held by its front-month contract.
But with only a modest cold forecast over the next three weeks through the end of winter, the challenge may not be over yet for long in the game, analysts say.
The most-active April gas contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange’s Henry Hub settled Thursday at $2.432 per MMBtu, or metric million British thermal units, up 13.4 cents, 5.8%.
March, the prevailing front-month contract on the Henry Hub until its expiry on Friday, settled at $2.314 after falling to as low as $1.967 in the previous session.
“The bulls are alright for now as the $2 support seems to be holding, though for how long no one knows, given that there’s not much cold left but there’s of gas left in the tank,” said John Kilduff, partner at New York energy hedge fund Again Capital.
The higher close came after the Energy Information Administration reported that U.S. utilities pulled 71 bcf, or billion cubic feet, from U.S. natural gas storage during the week ended Feb. 17 for power generation and heating purposes, versus an expected draw of 67 bcf.
The latest draw, however, paled when compared to the 100-bcf consumption from the prior week.
An unusually warm winter has led to considerably less heating demand in the United States this year, leaving more gas in storage than initially thought.
Responding to the warmth and lackluster storage draws, gas prices plunged from a 14-year high of $10 per MMBtu in August, reaching $7 in December and low-$2 levels this week.
For the week ended Feb. 17, U.S. gas inventories stood at a total of 2.195 tcf, or trillion cubic feet, up 22% from the year-ago level of 1.8 tcf.