Blizzard's Approach to the East Coast Emboldens U.S. Gas Bulls

  • Seven of 14 analysts say they are bullish on gas futures
  • Blizzard is `one-hit wonder' for this gas market this winter

The threat of a blizzard bombarding the East Coast starting Friday is giving bulls a shot at higher prices for U.S. natural gas.

Seven of 14 analysts and traders surveyed by Bloomberg said they’re bullish on futures, while five are bearish and two see prices holding steady. Last week, nine of 16 respondents were bearish. 

The powerful winter storm may dump more than a foot (30 centimeters) of snow on Washington, Baltimore and Philadelphia while Manhattan may see 6 to 12 inches, according to the National Weather Service. Forecasts for the storm and cold weather intensified over the past week, boosting gas withdrawals from stockpiles as demand for the heating fuel jumped.

“With the largest draw of the season expected next week, there is a chance that we might see a slight increase in prices next week,” said Teri Viswanath, director of commodities strategy at BNP Paribas SA in New York. “The problem is that it appears to be a one-hit wonder.”

Gas for February delivery rose 3.8 cents, or 1.8 percent, so far this week to settle Thursday at $2.138 per million British thermal units on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Last week, prices dropped 15 percent in the biggest retreat for any week since February 2014.

Weather Outlook

The snow will start late Friday afternoon or evening in the mid-Atlantic and reach New York by the next morning, on a track affecting some 50 million people.

As forecasts grew colder, the number of heating degree days, a measure of weather-driven energy demand factoring in population, for next week climbed to 210 from 191 forecast on Jan. 19, Matt Rogers, president of Commodity Weather Group LLC in Bethesda, Maryland, said in an e-mail. The 10-year average for the week is 211, he said.

“You could say the storm added 10 percent demand” for next week, bringing energy closer to normal levels, he said.

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