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Natural Gas Crashes 10% as US Supplies Post Bigger-Than-Expected Increase

September 17, 2020 at 14:56 by Andrew Moran

Natural gas futures are cratering on Thursday after the US government reported a larger-than-expected increase in domestic inventories. Natural gas prices are joining the broader market selloff as investors believe that the country has seen peak Federal Reserve stimulus, triggering uncertainty in the economy. With Hurricane Sally already disrupting the energy sector, natural gas could see wild swings over the next week.

October natural gas futures crashed $0.235, or 10.37%, to $2.035 per million British thermal units (btu) at 14:45 GMT on Thursday on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Natural gas is on track for a weekly plunge of more than 11%, adding to its year-to-date loss of 6%. The energy commodity had been on a tear this summer, rallying more than 25% since July.

According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), domestic inventories surged 89 billion cubic feet in the week ending September 11. The market had penciled in a gain of 77 billion cubic feet. In total, US supplies stand at 3.614 trillion cubic feet, up 535 billion cubic feet from the same time a year ago. They are also 421 billion cubic feet above the five-year average.

Energy commodities are looking for support as Hurricane Sally engulfs more of the northern part of the US Gulf Coast. The weather event is disrupting the production of crude oil and natural gas, resulting in shut-ins of 27% of Gulf oil output and 28% of natural gas production.

Although it is a Category 2 storm, Sally has already produced enormous damage, resulting in more than 550,000 people without power. Sally was so fierce that it poured four months of rain in just a few hours. This prompted oil and gas firms to pull personnel from drilling rigs and platforms in the area.

Meanwhile, the natural gas market is monitoring weather patterns throughout North America. The latest weather forecasts suggest that many parts of the US are already transitioning into fall weather, which could be a sign that the country could experience frigid temperatures before winter arrives. This would be bullish for natural gas since colder weather would boost demand.

In other energy markets, October West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures rose $0.69, or 1.72%, to $40.85 per barrel. November Brent crude futures added $0.83, or 1.97%, to $43.05 a barrel. October gasoline futures added $0.0294, or 2.47%, to $1.2183 per gallon. October heating oil futures picked up $0.0371, or 3.32%, to $1.1534 a gallon.

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