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Natural Gas Rallies 4% Despite Bigger-Than-Expected Supply Build

May 14, 2020 at 15:37 by Andrew Moran

Natural gas futures are rallying on Thursday after the US government reported a slightly bigger-than-expected increase in domestic inventories. Natural gas prices have crashed this week, adding to their bearish 2020 performance. With global demand plummeting amid the coronavirus pandemic, could natural gas suffer the same fate as crude oil and slip into subzero territory?

June natural gas futures spiked $0.068, or 4.21%, to $1.684 per million British thermal units (btu) at 15:20 GMT on Thursday on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The energy commodity is on track for a massive 13% loss this week, adding to its year-to-date loss of 23%.

According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), domestic stockpiles of natural gas climbed by 103 billion cubic feet for the week ending May 8. The market had penciled in a boost of 101 billion cubic feet. In total, supplies stand at 2.422 trillion cubic feet, up 799 billion cubic feet from the same time a year ago. They are also 413 billion cubic feet above the five-year average.

For the last decade, natural gas demand has continually increased without any interruption. That is changing, warns the International Energy Agency (IEA) in a new report. According to its Global Energy Review, global natural gas demand is poised to decline by a record 5% this year due to the economic fallout from the COVID-19 public health crisis – demand had already tumbled by 3% year-over-year in the first quarter. This would be the biggest drop since demand started 70 years ago.

The main problem, study authors warn, is that supply and output “did not adjust to this drop in consumption.” This is causing a huge jump in natural gas stocks in storage facilities. In the US, underground gas storage stockpiles advanced by 77% YoY in the January-to-March period, up 17% above the five-year average.

Overall, the IEA anticipates global energy demand will crater by 6% in 2020.

Could natural gas prices go negative like crude oil did last month? ENN Energy Holdings, one of China’s largest natural gas distributors, is not dismissing the possibility, reports Bloomberg. Wang Yusuo, chairman at ENN Energy Holdings, said at a virtual shareholders’ meeting:

“For natural gas, I have heard about the possibility of negative prices. I also think it could happen. That’s because natural gas has even more limited storage capacity and its production is also more rigid. So it may happen. But I don’t think it will be a dominant or long-lasting scenario.

In other energy commodities, June West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil futures tacked on $1.26, or 4.91%, to $26.94 per barrel. July Brent crude futures added $1.14, or 3.91%, to $30.33 a barrel. June gasoline futures picked up $0.0447, or 5.25%, to $0.8975 a gallon. June heating oil futures surged $0.0517, or 6.22%, to $0.8836 per gallon.

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