Frigid Weather Set to Punch Northeast Fuel Users as January Ends

A blast of Arctic air is expected to descend on the Midwest and East Coast next week, sending temperatures plummeting from Chicago to New York and boosting demand for heating fuels.

Temperatures in the Northeast are expected to drop 8 degrees Fahrenheit (4.4 Celsius) next week before returning to seasonal levels in about 10 days, according to Matt Rogers, president of the Commodity Weather Group LLC. That may be just a lull before the next cold blast arrives, said Rogers from his office in Bethesda, Maryland.

“Overall, it seems as though the pattern must reload for another round of stronger cold weather arriving toward the middle to the end of the final week in January,” Rogers said in a note to clients.

The threat of cold weather in high-population areas can boost energy markets as consumers burn more natural gas and heating oil to stay warm. Temperatures may drop to a low of 0 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 18 Celsius) in Chicago on Jan. 22 and 13 degrees in New York two days later, according to MDA Weather Services in Gaithersburg, Maryland.

Temperatures in the Northeast and eastern Canada are expected to fall 8 to 14 degrees below normal from Jan. 23 to 27, according to MDA.

Heating Fuels

Forecasts for below-normal temperatures have helped send the price of natural gas to a six-week high. Gas for delivery in February rose 2.5 cents to $3.519 per million British thermal units at 9:12 a.m. on the New York Mercantile Exchange after closing yesterday at the highest level since Dec. 7. Trading volume was down 6 percent from the 100-day average.

Prices are up 42 percent from a year ago, when the contiguous 48 U.S. states were in the middle of their warmest winter on record.

Heating oil for next-month delivery is heading for the first weekly gain since the end of December. The fuel, which is used mostly in the Northeast and is also affected by the price of crude oil, rose 1.14 cents to $3.0326 a gallon in New York with volume up 40 percent from the 100-day average.

The forecasts for the end of January and early February were in line with a warning from the U.S. Climate Prediction Center last week that said the eastern part of the country was heading to a blast of frigid weather.

The normal average temperature in New York on Jan. 23 is 36 degrees. In Boston it's 29, in Chicago it's 24, and in Philadelphia it's 33, according to MDA.

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