Investing.com - Natural gas futures ended Friday's session at a six-week high, as forecasts showing colder weather in the upcoming week boosted near-term demand expectations for the heating fuel.
Natural gas prices have closely tracked shifting weather forecasts in recent weeks, as traders try to gauge the impact of shifting forecasts on late-winter heating demand.
On the New York Mercantile Exchange, natural gas futures for delivery in April jumped 1.2% Friday to settle at USD3.626 per million British thermal units by close of trade.
Earlier in the day, Nymex gas prices rose to high of USD3.634 per million British thermal units, the strongest level since January 22.
On the week, natural gas prices rallied 4.65%, the third consecutive weekly advance.
Sentiment on the heating fuel remained upbeat after updated weather forecasts continued to call for below-normal readings for most of the Eastern half of the U.S. in the next six-to-ten days, increasing near-term demand expectations for the heating fuel.
Bullish speculators are betting on the cool weather increasing late-winter demand for the heating fuel.
The heating season from November through March is the peak demand period for U.S. gas consumption. Nearly 50% of all U.S. households use gas for heating.
Meanwhile, Thursday's larger-than-expected drawdown from winter inventories also kept momentum to the upside.
On Thursday, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said that natural gas storage fell by 146 billion cubic feet last week, compared to expectations for a drop of 134 billion cubic feet.
Inventories fell by 92 billion cubic feet in the same week a year earlier, while the five-year average change for the week is a decline of 107 billion cubic feet.
Total U.S. natural gas storage stood at 2.083 trillion cubic feet as of last week, 14.8% above the five-year average for this time of year.
Early withdrawal estimates for this week's storage data range from 88 billion cubic feet to 139 billion cubic feet.
Inventories fell by 66 billion cubic feet in the same week a year earlier, while the five-year average change for the week is a decline of 74 billion cubic feet.
Despite recent gains, market analysts have warned that prices remain vulnerable in the near-term as the coldest part of the winter has effectively passed and inventory levels remain bloated.
The heating fuel has rallied nearly 14% since falling close to a four-month low of USD3.125 per million British thermal units on February 15, boosted by calls for colder temperatures in major consuming regions across the U.S.
Elsewhere in the energy complex, light sweet crude oil futures for April delivery settled at USD91.86 a barrel by close of trade on Friday, adding 1.1% on the week.
Meanwhile, heating oil for April delivery climbed 1.25% over the week to settle at USD2.972 per gallon by close of trade Friday.
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