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NEW YORK: US natural gas futures jumped over 5% to an 11-week high on Thursday on forecasts for much colder weather in mid February and a big storage draw last week.

The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) said US utilities pulled a hefty 192 billion cubic feet (bcf) of gas from storage during the colder than normal week ended Jan. 29.

That matched analysts estimates in a Reuters poll and compares with a decrease of 155 bcf in the same week last year and a five-year (2016-2020) average withdrawal of 146 bcf.

Last week’s decrease cut stockpiles to 2.689 trillion cubic feet (tcf), which was still 7.9% above the five-year average of 2.491 tcf for this time of year.

“We view this week’s exceptionally cold temperature movement into the nation’s mid-continent as capable of prompting another supply draw per next week’s EIA equal to or larger in magnitude to today’s reported decline,” said Jim Ritterbusch, president of Ritterbusch and Associates in Galena, Illinois, noting “the long-standing supply surplus could easily flip to a deficit by month’s end.”

Stockpiles have remained above the five-year average since the start of 2020.

Front-month gas futures rose 14.6 cents, or 5.2%, to settle at $2.935 per million British thermal units, their highest close since November 13.

In the spot market, meanwhile, cold weather this week boosted next-day gas and power in New England to their highest since December 2019 for a second day in row.

Data provider Refinitiv said output in the Lower 48 US states averaged 90.2 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) so far in February. Traders noted that was down from 91.0 bcfd in January, due in part to the freezing of some wells. Output hit an all-time monthly high of 95.4 bcfd in November 2019.

With colder weather coming, Refinitiv projected average gas demand, including exports, would rise to 138.5 bcfd next week from 127.4 bcfd this week. Those forecasts were lower than Refinitiv’s outlook on Wednesday.

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