Natural gas futures – weekly outlook: January 12 – 16
U.S. natural gas futures edged higher on Friday, but gains were limited as investors monitored shifting weather forecasts for further indications on the outlook for U.S. demand and supply levels.
On the New York Mercantile Exchange, natural gas for delivery in February tacked on 1.9 cents, or 0.65%, on Friday to settle at $2.946 per million British thermal units by close of trade.
Futures were likely to find support at $2.811 per million British thermal units, the low from January 6, and resistance at $3.176, the high from January 5.
Despite Friday’s gains, Nymex natural gas prices lost 5.7 cents, or 1.89%, on the week, the seventh consecutive weekly decline.
Updated weather forecast models continued to call for frigid temperatures in the key Northeast and Midwest markets in the next three-to-five days, boosting near-term demand expectations for the heating fuel.
However, extended forecasts showed higher readings were expected for most of the nation from January 16 through January 20.
The heating season from November through March is the peak demand period for U.S. gas consumption.
On Thursday, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said in its weekly report that natural gas storage fell by 131 billion cubic feet last week, more than expectations for a decline of 121 billion and compared to a drop of 26 billion in the preceding week.
Total U.S. natural gas storage stood at 3.089 trillion cubic feet, 7.4% above year-ago levels and 2.1% below the five-year average for this time of year.
The EIA’s next storage report is slated for release on Thursday, January 15, with analysts expecting a decline of 192 billion cubic feet for the week ending January 9.
Inventories fell by 268 billion cubic feet in the same week a year earlier, while the five-year average change is a drop of 190 billion cubic feet.
Natural gas prices are down almost 35% since mid-November as an unusually mild start to winter limited demand while production soared.
Elsewhere on the Nymex, crude oil for February delivery settled at $48.36 a barrel by close of trade on Friday, down $4.33, or 8.21%, on the week.
Meanwhile, heating oil for February delivery slumped 5.06% on the week to settle at $1.704 per gallon by close of trade Friday.