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Natural Gas Rebounds Despite Tepid Supply Drawdown, Warm Weather

January 3, 2020 at 17:33 by Andrew Moran

Natural gas futures are rebounding to finish the holiday-shortened trading week, despite the US government reporting a smaller-than-expected decline in domestic inventories. But it is the weather, Chinese demand, and potentially Middle Eastern conflict that are playing integral roles in the energy commodity’s performance to kick off 2020.

February natural gas futures rose $0.02, or 0.85%, to $2.14 per million British thermal units (btu) at 15:56 GMT on Friday on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Natural gas prices will record a weekly loss of about 2.5% after posting a steep 25% drop in 2019.

According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), domestic supplies of natural gas tumbled by 58 billion cubic feet for the week ending December 27, which is short of the median estimate of 67 billion cubic feet. In total, inventories stand at 3.19 trillion, up 484 billion cubic feet from the same time a year ago. They are also below the five-year average of 3,329 billion cubic feet.

Much of North America is experiencing warmer-than-normal temperatures for this time of the year. Last week, it was reported that short-term forecasts suggested frigid weather patterns in the first half of January before returning to either seasonal average or above average. However, these forecasts have seemingly been modified and now the region is anticipating warmer trends for most of January.

In two years to three years, China has been shifting away from coal and into natural gas in both production and consumption. However, it looks like demand is slowing down, according to new data from the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC). Between January and November 2019, Chinese consumption clocked in at 9%, down from 18.2% growth during the same period in 2018.

China recently became the world’s second-largest importer of liquid natural gas (LNG), surpassing South Korea. While growth continued last year, it expanded at a slower pace, mainly because of the nation’s economic difficulties.

Meanwhile, concerns over heightened conflict in the Middle East amplified on Thursday when the US completed an airstrike that killed top Iranian general, Qasem Soleimani. This left energy prices across the board at the end of the trading week.

February West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil futures soared $1.32, or 2.14%, to $62.49 per barrel. March Brent crude futures added $1.77, or 2.67%, to $68.02 a barrel. January gasoline futures tacked on $0.035, or 1.97%, to $1.7375 per gallon. January heating oil futures picked up $0.0275, or 1.37%, to $2.052 a gallon.

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