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NEW YORK: US natural gas futures soared over 11% on Monday to a two-month high as a major winter snowstorm battered the Northeast and with forecasts suggesting much colder weather and higher heating demand over the next two weeks than previously expected.

Commodity traders are watching closely for extraordinary price moves after a series of volatile moves in numerous markets attributed to retail traders using social network Reddit. Those traders were responsible for big moves in smaller stocks in the last several days, while a big swing in silver prices had investors concerned that those traders were starting to migrate to commodities markets. Silver prices were up more than 11% earlier on Monday.

Front-month gas futures rose 28.6 cents, 11.2%, to settle at $2.850 per million British thermal units, their highest settle since Dec. 1 and their biggest daily percentage gain since September.

“The shift in the forecasts during the past couple of days has been dramatic with consensus of views now favoring some extreme cold due to move across the country later this week and continuing through next week and likely beyond,” said Jim Ritterbusch, president of Ritterbusch and Associates in Galena, Illinois, noting the extra heating demand would “make a major dent in the” inventory surplus.

Gas stockpiles last week were 9.3% above the five-year average.

Energy traders said they have not heard that Reddit users were having much of an impact on the gas market, a much bigger asset than individual equities. However, the US Natural Gas Fund (UNG) was also having a big day with daily volume near 9.1 million lots traded versus a daily average of around 5.1 million lots over the past year. Exchange-traded funds are viewed as more vulnerable to herd-like activity than underlying futures contracts.

“We saw a really pronounced change in the weather forecast over the weekend,” said John Kilduff, partner at Again Capital LLC in New York. “I would not rule out that the Reddit crowd is having some impact - possibly in pushing up volumes in UNG - but we’re used to seeing lots of volatility in the gas market.”

In 2020, gas futures rose or fell over 10% in intraday trade a little more than once a month on average. Data provider Refinitiv projected average gas demand, including exports, would rise from 128.4 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) this week to 138.1 bcfd next week as the weather turns colder and heating use increases.—Reuters

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