NYMEX August natural gas futures fell 3.4 cents to settle at $3.747/MMBtu Monday in somewhat choppy trading as the market consolidated ahead of Tuesday's contract expiration.
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The contract started off the day in positive territory, trading nearly 7 cents above Friday's close, then fell by midday, hitting a low of $3.728/MMBtu before consolidating a few cents higher.
"We started the day off with some short-covering, and then when that dried up the fundamentals reasserted themselves," said broker Gene McGillian at TFS Energy Futures.
"We've had a steady influx of bearish factors to contend with and have gone down about 25% in the past month and a half," McGillian added. "But there's some risk-reward to these prices levels, and we might start seeing things turn around if we get some uptick in power demand. At that point some of the shorts that piled in below $4 might have their feet held to the fire."
"Some of the big fund players are trying to pull" the contract down, said Phil Flynn, a senior market analyst at Price Futures Group.
But for the long term, Flynn noted that the "picture on natural gas is a weather play, and temperatures are cooling back down."
August traded Monday at $3.728-3.850/MMBtu.
The NYMEX settlement is considered preliminary and subject to change until a final settlement price is posted at 7 pm EDT (2300 GMT).