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Markets

US natgas futures slip 2pc as warmer weather allows output to return

  • That small decline comes despite forecasts for higher demand next week as liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports rise.
  • On their second to last day as the front-month, gas futures for March delivery fell 6.3 cents, or 2.1%, to $2.890 per million British thermal units.
Published February 23, 2021

US natural gas futures slipped about 2% to a fresh one-week low on Tuesday as warmer weather allows producers to return more wells and pipelines to service that were frozen during last week's extreme cold.

That small decline comes despite forecasts for higher demand next week as liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports rise.

On their second to last day as the front-month, gas futures for March delivery fell 6.3 cents, or 2.1%, to $2.890 per million British thermal units at 8:13 a.m. EST (1313 GMT), putting the contract on track for its lowest close since Feb. 11 for a second day in a row.

April futures, which will soon be the front-month, were down 7 cents to $2.87 per mmBtu.

At-the-money implied volatility for futures, a determinant of an option's premium, fell to 37.7%, its lowest since February 2020.

Data provider Refinitiv said output in the Lower 48 US states has averaged 85.2 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) so far in February. Traders noted that was down from 91.1 bcfd in January, due to massive freezing of wells and pipelines last week. Output hit an all-time monthly high of 95.4 bcfd in November 2019.

On a daily basis, production was on track to jump to 87.5 bcfd on Tuesday as the weather warms, its highest since Feb. 11 before last week's extreme cold. During last week's freeze, daily output fell as low as 72.9 bcfd on Feb. 17, the least since August 2017, according to Refinitiv data.

Refinitiv projected average gas demand, including exports, would drop from 117.0 bcfd this week to 109.1 bcfd next week as the weather turns milder. That forecast for next week was higher than Refinitiv projected on Monday due mostly to rising LNG exports.

The amount of gas flowing to US LNG export plants averaged 8.4 bcfd so far in February, down from 10.4 bcfd in January and a monthly record high of 10.7 bcfd in December. Exports dropped this month after several Gulf Coast plants shut or reduced output after the extreme cold last week cut available gas supplies.

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