Investing.com – Things are beginning to look up for the natural gas bull, after months and months of haplessness.
America’s favorite fuel for indoor heating and cooling reinforced its hold on $3 pricing on Friday as futures on the New York Mercantile Exchange’s Henry Hub scored double-digit gains for a second straight week.
Turnaround in the prospects of gas, which prior to this was stuck at mid-$2 levels for most of the year, came as weather, demand and production synced in the positive to support higher pricing.
Aiding the bull fervor was gas storage data showing a smallish build for last week, contrary to expectations for a larger one, as some lingering warmth before the advent of cooler fall temperatures led to more air-conditioning demand.
Improving storage optics help gas rally
“A key driving force behind this price surge is the state of storage as we approach the winter months,” analysts at Houston-based energy markets advisory Gelber & Associates said in a note to the firm’s clients in natural gas.
The analysts noted that weather projections thus far for November, December and January suggested temperatures that weren’t too chilly.
“Despite this, the market remains apprehensive” of an unseasonably warm winter that would translate to little heating demand, the Gelber note said. It added:
“Recent misses in storage injections, tracking below the five-year average, have fundamentally tightened the market on the supply side. Despite the warm winter predictions, these storage anxieties have significantly impacted market sentiments, propelling prices beyond the $3 hurdle.”
The most-active November gas contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange’s Henry Hub settled Friday’s trade at $3.3380 per mmBtu, or million metric British thermal units, up 17.2 cents, or 5.4%, on the day. For the week, November gas gained 14%, adding to the prior week’s advance of 11%.
This week’s rally in gas accelerated after the Energy Information Administration, or EIA, reported a build of just 86 billion cubic feet, or bcf, in storage of the fuel during the week ended Sept. 29, versus the 92 bcf expected by industry analysts tracked by Investing.com. In the prior week to Sept. 22, storage rose by 90 bcf.
Total gas in US storage was at 3.445 trillion cubic feet as of last week, up 11.6% from a year ago, the EIA said. Earlier this year, the storage was more than 20% up year-on-year. On a five-year basis (2018-2022), inventories were just 5.3% higher, down from double-digits earlier this year.
After twice failing to hold to $3 pricing, gas bulls seem to be 3rd-time lucky
Since their last foray into sub-$2 territory in April, gas futures have climbed some 70%, with weather, demand and production all coming together to support higher pricing.
But the ride higher has been a stormy one for gas bulls, who for the lack of a real major storm — snow or hurricane — were often caught in the throes of mid-$2 pricing.
There wasn’t a lack of drama though, with sudden spikes in demand for liquefied natural gas, or LNG; unexpected pipeline outages or record production exceeding a 100 billion cubic feet, or bcf, a day, coloring the path. There was even a 24% gain for June — the best month for gas bulls since April 2022.
Miraculously, through it all, $3 pricing kept evading the market most of the year.
Before October, the $3 phenomenon only happened in March, when some late chill minus the typical frigidity of winter led to average heating demand that brought a peak of $3.03. Then in August, with record heat in Texas and other summer hotspots, hefty air-conditioning brought the market to $3.02.