Saturday, October 17, 2009

Natural Gas $4.60/MMBtu

By Christine Buurma

NEW YORK (Dow Jones)--Natural gas futures climbed Friday as traders bought back previously sold contracts ahead of an expected cold weekend in the major gas-consuming regions.

Natural gas for November delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange was trading 22.3 cents higher, or up 4.98%, at $4.705 a million British thermal units after opening floor trade 4.7 cents higher at $4.529/MMBtu.

Traders, who have been betting heavily on the price of gas to fall over the past few weeks, were buying back contracts Friday ahead of a weekend expected to spark greater demand for natural gas for heating in the U.S. Midwest and Northeast.

"We're getting a nice push here into the weekend," said Larry Young, a trader with Infinity Futures in Chicago.

Commodity Weather Group, a Bethesda, Md. private forecaster, was predicting below-normal temperatures in the Northeast, Southeast and much of the Midwest through Oct. 20. Temperatures were expected to moderate somewhat later in the month, but meteorologists predict that colder-than-normal weather will persist in the Midwest.

"Cold, damp, nasty weather will remain in the East into the upcoming weekend, but the extreme cold leaves next week," wrote Joe Bastardi, a meteorologist with, in a note to clients Friday.

But gas supplies remain abundant, placing downward pressure on prices. High levels of production from onshore shale-gas formations have met with tepid demand during the U.S. economic downturn, leaving record amounts of gas in storage.

Total gas in storage as of Oct. 9 was 3.716 trillion cubic feet, 15% above the five-year average and 14% above the year-ago level.

-By Christine Buurma, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-2143;

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