Natural gas prices spiked on Monday as the market realized that cold in the U.S may persist longer, increasing heating demand and putting pressure on gas stockpiles.
Natural gas futures for February increased by more than 16 % on Monday to settle at $3.591/MMBtu. Further, the February Henry Hub contract hit a session peak at $3.539 per million British thermal units, its highest level since Dec. 27. The contract was last up 12.7 percent at $3.493 per mmBtu.
Natural gas prices have been falling since the middle of December, following a spike above $4 per mmBtu in the fall. Hotter-than-usual late summer temperatures and an unanticipated cold fall increased demand for cooling and heating last year, causing natural gas stockpiles hit their lowest level in over a decade.
But following the forecast of return of cold weather conditions, coupled with a prolonged cold period and natural gas inventories still hovering 15% below its five-year average, natural gas prices seem likely to move higher in the coming days. However, it's highly unlikely that the cold will last long enough to push inventories toward record lows, and help gas prices move above $4 per mmBtu. For that, the cold needs to last at least a third or half of February.
If the weather normalizes during the rest of winter, Barclays forecasts Henry Hub prices to average $3.51 per mmBtu in the first quarter and $2.92 per mmBtu for the full year.
Monday’s some of the major gainers included names like Range Resources Corporation (RRC, +2.4%), Chesapeake Energy (CHK, +2.2%) and Antero Resources Corporation (AR, +2.2%) among others.