Natural Gas Set for Month’s Biggest Weekly Gain as Cold Returns

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Natural Gas, Gold Silver ReportsNatural gas futures are set for their biggest weekly gain in a month amid forecasts that cold weather will return to the U.S.

Futures for March delivery are up 19 percent from Feb. 14, the largest weekly gain since the 20 percent jump for the period ending Jan. 24. The contract traded at $6.184 per million British thermal units as of 12:13 p.m. in Singapore, up 2 percent in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The volume of all futures traded is about 53 percent below the 100-day average.

The contract dropped 1.4 percent yesterday as a government report showed U.S. gas inventories declined less than analysts estimated. Still, prices this week topped $6 for the first time since 2010 on forecasts for a surge of cold air following unusually mild weather this week.

“Weather forecasts will cause price volatility through March, but we expect end-March storage to come in at 1.1 trillion cubic feet, the lowest since 2004,” Adam Longson, a New York-based analyst for Morgan Stanley, said in an e-mailed report yesterday.

Above-normal temperatures across most of the lower 48 U.S. states this week will give way to a “powerful polar punch” in the Midwest from Feb. 25 through March 1, according to Commodity Weather Group LLC in Bethesda, Maryland. The cold will hit the South and East Coast next week through March 8.

Gas Stockpiles

Chicago’s low on Feb. 27 will drop to minus 2 Fahrenheit (minus 19 Celsius), 27 below normal, while New York City will slide to 17 degrees, 14 lower than average, said AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania. About 49 percent of U.S. households use gas for heating, led by the Midwest and the Northeast, data show from the EIA, the Energy Department’s statistical arm.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration said in a report yesterday that gas stockpiles dropped 250 billion cubic feet in the week ended Feb. 14 to 1.443 trillion cubic feet. The median of 24 analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg expected a decline of 257 billion.

The inventory report showed a decline that was bigger than the five-year average drop of 133 billion cubic feet. The compared with the five-year average widened to a record 34 percent from 27 percent the previous week, yesterday’s report showed. Supplies were 40 percent below year-earlier inventories.