U.S. natural gas futures edged up on Friday as the market focused more on forecasts for colder weather and more heating demand during the first week of December than warmer than previously expected weather next week.Front-month gas futures for December delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange were up 2.9 cents, or 1.1%, to $2.596 per million British thermal units at 8:07 a.m. EST.
For the week, the front-month was down about 3%, putting the contract on track to fall for a second week in a row.
The premium of January futures over December , meanwhile, briefly fell to its lowest on record, according to data from Refinitiv going back to 2008 when the contracts started trading.
Meteorologists forecast the weather over much of the U.S. Lower 48 states would transition from warmer than normal levels now to colder than normal starting around Dec. 2.
With more cold coming in December, data provider Refinitiv projected average gas demand in the Lower 48 states would rise to 119.6 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) in two weeks from 107.0 bcfd next week.
That compares with Refinitiv’s forecast on Thursday of 107.4 bcfd for this week and 108.7 bcfd for next week.
Gas flows to liquefied natural gas (LNG) export plants rose to 7.4 bcfd on Thursday from 7.0 bcfd on Wednesday, according to Refinitiv data. That compares with an average of 7.0 bcfd last week and an all-time daily high of 7.7 bcfd on Nov. 2.
Pipeline flows to Mexico dipped to 5.4 bcfd on Thursday from 5.6 bcfd on Wednesday, according to Refinitiv data. That compares with an average of 5.6 bcfd last week and an all-time daily high of 6.2 bcfd on Sept. 18.
Analysts said utilities likely pulled just 27 billion cubic feet (bcf) of gas from storage during the week ended Nov. 22. That compares with a withdrawal of 70 bcf during the same week last year and a five-year (2014-18) average decline of 57 bcf for the period.
If correct, the decrease would cut stockpiles to 3.611 trillion cubic feet (tcf), 0.8% below the five-year average of 3.641 tcf for this time of year.
Analysts said stockpiles will likely return to a surplus over the five-year average during the next month or so as rising production enables utilities to leave more gas in storage.
Gas production in the Lower 48 states rose to a record 95.3 bcfd on Thursday from 95.0 bcfd on Wednesday, according to Refinitiv. That compares with an average of 94.7 bcfd last week.
In the spot market, next-day gas at the Southern California citygate rose to its highest level since March for a fourth day in a row. Temperatures in some cities in Southern California were cooler than normal earlier this week and are expected to turn even colder next week, according to AccuWeather.