U.S. natural gas futures on Dec. 30 slipped to a 10-month low on forecasts for warmer weather, yet the year's hot commodity was poised for its third consecutive annual rise as supply disruptions due to the Russia-Ukraine war sent tremors across global gas markets.
Despite posting their worst monthly showing in four years in December, prices notched the longest streak of annual gains, according to Refinitiv data.
The contract has added about 20% in what has been tipped as the most volatile year for the commodity, having surpassed the $10/MMBtu level for the first time in 14 years.
Prices halved since then, however, with the contract settling down 8.4 cents, or 1.8%, at $4.475/MMBtu on Dec. 30, pressured by record-high U.S. output and milder weather which has reduced demand for heating. The contract hit its lowest level since March 1 during the session and marked its worst quarterly loss in a year.
"With warmer than normal weather ahead of us, I believe the draws for the next several weeks are going to be much lower than the five-year average, especially for the first week of January," said Zhen Zhu, managing consultant at C.H. Guernsey and Co. in Oklahoma City.
Data provider Refinitiv estimated 345 heating degree days (HDDs) over the next two weeks in the lower 48 U.S. states. The normal is 440 HDDs for this time of year.
HDDs estimate demand to heat homes and businesses by measuring the number of degrees a day's average temperature is below 65 F (18 C).
"Until there is solid enough evidence that more bitterly cold weather is on the cusp of dominating the bulk of the nation, it’s likely that gas market bears will continue to keep adding downside pressure on prices," Gelber & Associates said in a note.
Market participants are also keenly awaiting the restart of the long-shut Freeport LNG export plant in Texas in the second half of January, pending regulatory approval.
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