Forex Pros - Last week saw natural gas prices rebound from a three-week low amid speculation declining U.S. natural gas production and a disruption to supplies would widen a stockpile deficit.
On the New York Mercantile Exchange, natural gas futures for delivery in June settled at USD4.253 per million British thermal units by close of trade on Friday, edging 0.2% higher over the week.
Natural gas prices rebounded from a three-week low of USD4.108 per million British thermal units on Thursday after government data showed that U.S. natural gas stockpiles rose by 70 billion cubic feet last week, lower than the five-year average increase of 90 billion cubic feet. Supplies rose 93 billion cubic feet in the same week a year earlier.
Total U.S. natural gas storage stood at 1.827 trillion cubic feet, 2% below the five-year average and 12% below 2010 levels, the widest year-on-year deficit since the week ended August 1, 2008.
Natural gas prices added to the previous day's gains, jumping nearly 1.5% on Friday after industry research group Baker Hughes said that the number of active rigs drilling for natural gas in the U.S. last week fell 1.8% to 874, the lowest level since January 29, 2010.
The rig count is down 4.9% so far in 2011. According to the group, a drop to the 800-to-850 rig range would be necessary to begin to balance the market.
Prices were also boosted by concerns over the potential impact on U.S. supplies from Mississippi River flooding.
According to the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association, as much as 252.6 million cubic feet a day of gas may be threatened, along with operations at 10 Louisiana refineries that account for nearly 14% of U.S. operating capacity.
Natural gas prices came under pressure earlier in the week as forecasts of mild spring weather across the eastern U.S. and moderating temperatures in the southern U.S. states dampened demand expectations for the fuel.
Gas use typically hits a seasonal low with spring's mild temperatures, before warmer weather increases demand for gas-fired electricity generation to power air conditioning.
Meanwhile, light sweet crude oil futures for June delivery traded at USD99.43 a barrel by close of trade on Friday, rising 1.1% over the week, while heating oil for June delivery traded at USD2.939 per gallon, climbing 2% over the week.