Natural Gas Futures Rise as Cold Air Boosts U.S. Heating Demand

Natural gas gained in New York for the first time in three days as a shot of cold air stoked consumption of the heating fuel.

Gas rose 0.2 percent as a cold front that brought snow to Chicago yesterday swept eastward, according to the National Weather Service. Forecasters predicted below-normal readings across central and eastern states through April 19. U.S. gas inventories fell to an 11-year low last month as a frigid winter spurred record fuel use, government data show.

“There’s still some heating demand and it’s stalling the injections we are going to need to have for next winter,” said Tom Saal, senior vice president of energy trading at FCStone Latin America LLC in Miami. “We already got an injection, but it was low and we are going to need some pretty hefty ones.”

Natural gas for May delivery rose 0.7 cent to settle at $4.567 per million British thermal units on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Volume for all futures traded was 34 percent below the 100-day average at 2:35 p.m. Prices have climbed 8 percent this year.

Gas has rebounded 8.2 percent from a 10-week intraday low of $4.221 on April 2 as unusually cool April weather buoyed heater use, limiting flows of gas into storage.

Yesterday, 1.5 inches (3.8 centimeters) of snow fell at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, bringing the 2013-2014 total to 82 inches, the third-snowiest season on records going back to 1884, the National Weather Service said. The highest total was 89.7 inches in 1978-79.

Colder Weather

This “impressive short-term cooling is expanding across the Midwest and South with arrival on the East Coast later today,” Matt Rogers, president of Commodity Weather Group LLC in Bethesda, Maryland, said in a note to clients today. Temperatures will warm up next week, bringing seasonal readings in the East and above-average temperatures in the West.

The high temperature in Washington today was projected to reach 70 Fahrenheit (21 Celsius) before dropping tonight to 32, the freezing mark, the weather service said.

About 49 percent of U.S. households use gas for heating, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the statistical arm of the Energy Department.

Gas stockpiles in the lower 48 states probably rose by 35 billion cubic feet last week, based on the median of six analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg. The five-year average change for the period is an increase of 37 billion. The EIA is scheduled to release its weekly gas storage report on April 17.

The first storage injection of this year was 4 billion cubic feet in the week ended April 4, bringing stockpiles to 826 billion cubic feet. A supply deficit to the five-year average was unchanged at a record 54.7 percent.

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