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NYMEX February gas contract soars following record draw from US storage

The NYMEX February natural gas futures contract spiked Thursday after theUS Energy Information Administration announced an all-time high withdrawalfrom storage.

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The February contract settled at $3.084/MMBtu, up 17.8 cents fromWednesday's close, its highest since November 29.

The EIA announced an estimated 359 Bcf pull from national storage stocksfor the week ended January 5, well above the 337 Bcf withdrawal expected by a consensus of analysts surveyed by S&P Global Platts.

The withdrawal topped the previous record of 288 Bcf in the week ended January 10, 2014, according to EIA data.

The record pull from stocks came as temperatures across much of thecountry were well below average for the duration of the week, pushing demandto record levels and causing production freeze-offs in some areas.

The unprecedented withdrawal led to record pulls in the East, Midwest,Mountain and South Central regions, and dragged total national stocks down toan estimated 2.767 Tcf, a 12.1% deficit to the five-year average, according toEIA data.

The upward movement in price brings the front-month contract to afamiliar place, the $3/MMBtu level. Since May 22, the front-month contract hasonly strayed more than 25 cents in either direction of $3/MMBtu 11 times,during a period in mid-December when record production met unseasonably warmtemperatures.

US demand is projected by Platts Analytics' Bentek Energy to climb overthe next week, averaging 104.2 Bcf/d over the next seven days, well above the89.2 Bcf forecast for Thursday.

The increase in demand can be attributed in part to a forecast drop intemperatures across some demand areas in the US, as the most recent outlookfor Chicago from the National Weather Service calls for a likelihood ofbelow-average temperatures, with high temperatures reaching the low 20sthrough Wednesday, below the average high of 31.

The NYMEX settlement is considered preliminary and subject to changeuntil a final settlement price is posted at 7 pm EST (2400 GMT).

--Eric Janssen, eric.janssen@spglobal.com

--Edited by Jason Lindquist, jason.lindquist@spglobal.com