Home Commodities The Commodities Feed: US natural gas prices spike higher | Article

The Commodities Feed: US natural gas prices spike higher | Article

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The oil market saw a fairly choppy trading session on Friday with ICE Brent trading within a US$2.79/bbl range. Brent briefly broke above US$80/bbl amid ongoing tension in the Middle East, specifically the Red Sea, following US and UK airstrikes against the Houthis in Yemen. However, the market was unable to hold onto these earlier gains. While geopolitical risks are certainly building, we are still not seeing a reduction in oil supply as a result of developments in the region. But clearly the more escalation we see in the region, the market will likely have to start pricing in the the larger risk of supply disruptions.

Speculators boosted their position in ICE Brent over the last reporting week, increasing their net long by 38,905 lots, leaving them with a net long of 208,748 lots as of last Tuesday- the largest position they have held since October. The move was predominantly driven by fresh longs with the gross long increasing by 29,942 lots over the period. Speculators also increased their net long in NYMEX WTI, with the net long increasing by 21,799 lots to 111,129 lots as of last Tuesday. Although for WTI, the move was largely driven by short covering, with the gross short falling by 20,138 lots.

European gas storage has now broken below 80% full with colder weather over the last week seeing the largest daily withdrawals from storage so far this winter. However, storage remains above the 5-year average of 68% full for this time of year. For now, we are still assuming that European storage will finish this heating season at around 52% full, which suggests limited upside for European gas prices.

The US natural gas market has seen increased volatility in recent days and Friday saw a significant jump in spot prices. While front-month Henry Hub futures settled almost 7% higher on Friday, spot prices jumped more than 300% to over US$13/MMBtu due to freezing weather conditions across large parts of North America. Obviously colder weather will lead to stronger heating demand. However, there are also supply risks, with freezing conditions expected in Texas, which could lead to disruptions to natural gas infrastructure. Although front-month futures have given back a lot of Friday’s gains in early morning trading today.

There is plenty on the energy calendar this week. On Wednesday, China will release its industrial production numbers for December, which will include output data for crude oil and refinery activity. OPEC will also release its latest monthly market report on the same day, which will include its latest 2024 outlook for the oil market. On Thursday, the International Energy Agency will release its latest oil market report, while China will release its second batch of trade data, which will include more detailed energy trade numbers. Also, given today is a public holiday in the US, the usual weekly inventory numbers from the API and EIA will be delayed by a day.

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