MARKET WATCH: NYMEX natural gas futures prices slump on Dec. 31

Natural gas prices fell 19.7¢/MMbtu Dec. 31 during trading on the New York market, marking its largest single-day decline since May, yet analysts noted that gas prices rose 26% overall during 2013 trading, which was the largest percentage gain of any energy commodity for the year.

Cold temperatures in the US early this winter have contributed to price gains for gas compared with the milder 2012-13 winter. Forecasters expect colder-than-normal weather in the Midwest and East Coast for 6-10 days.

The New York market was closed Jan. 1 for the New Year’s holiday. The Energy Information Administration plans Jan. 3 to release its underground gas storage report for the week ended Dec. 27. The report is coming a day later than normal because of the midweek holiday. EIA also plans to release its weekly petroleum inventory on Jan. 3, which is 2 days later than normal.

On international oil markets, Brent crude oil prices dropped 41¢/bbl during the Dec. 31 trading session, and analysts largely attributed the drop to statements from Libya’s national oil company, the Arabian Gulf Oil Co., saying it has resumed some field and refinery operations. For months, labor unrest has disrupted Libyan oil exports.

Energy prices

The New York Mercantile Exchange February crude contract fell 87¢ on Dec. 31 to close at $99.42/bbl. The March contract fell 88¢ to settle at $98.55/bbl.

Heating oil for January delivery was down by less than a penny to a rounded $3.07/gal. Reformulated gasoline stock for oxygenate blending for January delivery also fell slightly, down 0.19¢, to a rounded $2.79/gal. The RBOB January contract expired with the end of Dec. 31 trading.

The February natural gas contract on NYMEX deceased 19.7¢ to settle at $4.23/MMbtu. On the US spot market, the gas price at Henry Hub, La., dropped 8.8¢ on Dec. 31 to a rounded $4.32/MMbtu.

In London, the February ICE contract for Brent crude oil fell 41¢ to close at $110.80/bbl. The ICE gas oil contract for January was down $1.25 to settle at $944.25/tonne.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries’ basket of 12 benchmark crudes closed at $107.98/bbl on Dec. 31, down 59¢ from the previous day.

Contact Paula Dittrick at paulad@ogjonline.com.

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