Nat-Gas Prices Underpinned on the Outlook for Colder U.S. Temps

February Nymex natural gas (NGG24) on Thursday closed +0.072 (+2.55%).

Nat-gas prices rallied every day this week and extended the rally to a 5-week high on Friday.   The outlook for colder U.S. temperatures that will boost heating demand for nat-gas is pushing nat-gas prices higher.   On Friday, forecaster Maxar Technologies said the eastern third of the U.S. will see colder temperatures from Jan 10-14.  Also, forecaster Atmospheric G2 said over the next two weeks and beyond, a weather pattern change will begin to unfold, resulting in a "significant Arctic cold shot" in the U.S.    

The U.S. Climate Prediction Center said there is a greater than 55% chance the current El Nino weather pattern will remain strong in the Northern Hemisphere through March, keeping temperatures above average and weighing on nat-gas prices.  AccuWeather said El Nino will limit snowfall across Canada this season in addition to causing above-normal temperatures across North America.

Lower-48 state dry gas production Friday was 104.7 bcf/day (+4.2% y/y), according to BNEF.  Lower-48 state gas demand Friday was 103.4 bcf/day (+12.9% y/y), according to BNEF.  LNG net flows to U.S. LNG export terminals Friday were 14.9 bcf/day (+1.0% w/w), according to BNEF.

A decline in U.S. electricity output is negative for nat-gas demand from utility providers.  The Edison Electric Institute reported Thursday that total U.S. electricity output in the week ended December 30 fell -7.7% y/y to 73,731 GWh (gigawatt hours), and cumulative U.S. electricity output in the 52-week period ending December 30 fell -1.6% y/y to 4,076,145 GWh.

Thursday's weekly EIA report was bearish for nat-gas prices as nat-gas inventories for the week ended December 29 fell -14 bcf, a smaller draw than expectations of -32 bcf and well above the 5-year average draw of -97 bcf.  As of December 29, nat-gas inventories were up +20.2% y/y and were +13.0% above their 5-year seasonal average, signaling ample nat-gas supplies.  In Europe, gas storage was 86% full as of January 2, above the 5-year seasonal average of 74% full for this time of year.

Baker Hughes reported Friday that the number of active U.S. nat-gas drilling rigs in the week ending January 5 fell -2 rigs to 118 rigs, just above the 19-month low of 113 rigs posted September 8.  Active rigs have fallen back since climbing to a 4-year high of 166 rigs in Sep 2022 from the pandemic-era record low of 68 rigs posted in July 2020 (data since 1987).

More Natural Gas News from Barchart

On the date of publication, Rich Asplund did not have (either directly or indirectly) positions in any of the securities mentioned in this article. All information and data in this article is solely for informational purposes. For more information please view the Barchart Disclosure Policy here.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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