'Phantom surplus' seen softening gas prices

Remember The Case of the Missing Barrels? That was a controversy of a few years back when critics blamed an apparent gap in the International Energy Agency's supply data as a contributor to soft oil prices.Now we seem to have The Case of the Phantom Surplus. As natural gas markets have softened in recent weeks, a major contributor to the slackening market has been a lingering year-on-year gas storage surplus.This overhang dates back to last year. It stems from a big ramp-up in gas supplies, owing to high-price-induced opportunistic drilling in 2001, and from flabby demand, owing to a warm stretch late last winter.But a major contributor to natural gas price uncertainty this spring has...

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