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U.S. natgas futures jump over 10% as output slows


U.S. natural gas futures jumped over 10% on Monday on slowing output as energy firms shut wells and slash spending on new oil drilling after crude prices sank earlier this year due to coronavirus-led demand destruction. Those oil wells also produce a lot of gas.Front-month gas futures for June delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) rose 17.1 cents, or 10.4%, to $1.817 per million British thermal units at 10:26 a.m. EDT (1426 GMT). That puts the contract on track for its biggest one-day percentage gain since January 2019.

Last week, however, gas speculators cut their net long positions on the NYMEX and IntercontinentalExchange for the first time in six weeks as government lockdowns to stop the spread of coronavirus cut energy use, causing fuel prices and exports to drop.

U.S. crude futures were still down about 50% since the start of the year, even though prices have gained more than 90% over the past four weeks.

Looking forward, analysts expect oil and gas price will rise as governments slowly lift travel restrictions, with gas futures for the balance of 2020 and calendar 2021 trading much higher than the front-month.

Data provider Refinitiv said average gas output in the U.S. Lower 48 states fell to 89.5 bcfd so far in May, down from an eight-month low of 92.9 bcfd in April and an all-time monthly high of 95.4 bcfd in November.

With the coming of warmer weather, Refinitiv projected demand in the Lower 48 states, including exports, will rise from an average of 78.2 bcfd this week to 79.8 bcfd next week. That is similar to Refinitiv’s forecasts on Friday.

Even though the coronavirus is reducing global gas use, the U.S. Energy Information Administration still expects U.S. exports to hit record highs in coming years as more liquefied natural gas (LNG) export plants and pipelines enter service. Still, the agency reduced its projections on the pace of that growth due to the pandemic.

Refinitiv said U.S. pipeline exports to Canada averaged 2.3 bcfd so far in May, down from 2.4 bcfd in April and an all-time monthly high of 3.5 bcfd in December. Pipeline exports to Mexico, meanwhile, averaged 4.5 bcfd so far this month, down from 4.7 bcfd in April and a record 5.6 bcfd in March.

Refinitiv said U.S. LNG exports averaged 6.8 bcfd so far in May, down from a four-month low of 8.1 bcfd in April and an all-time high of 8.7 bcfd in February.

U.S. gas prices for June at the Henry Hub benchmark in Louisiana have mostly traded over the Title Transfer Facility (TTF) in the Netherlands since late April. As long as U.S. prices remain over the European benchmark – Henry Hub is also trading over TTF for July and August



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