Natural Gas Soars On Fears of a Polar Redux

wicked-winter_283x168Wall Street Journal

By Tim Puko

A repeat of last year’s snowy, Arctic-cold winter is looking a little more likely today. Natural gas traders, still scarred by the memory, are bunkering in.

Buyers have been rushing into the gas market for a week on fears of a sequel to last winter’s Polar Vortex, which walloped the eastern half of the U.S. with brutally cold temperatures from the deep south up to New England. Many spent months dismissing that possibility as simple panic, but now meteorologists are getting more pessimistic.

Both Commodity Weather Group and WeatherBELL Analytics LLC released long-term forecasts this week showing a notably higher risk for a cold December. That was supposed to be relatively mild month this winter, balancing out a cold January and February. Now the whole winter is shaping up to be “pretty nasty,” WeatherBELL said.

That has propelled natural gas to a six-session rally. It’s rebounded nearly 18% since it hit its 2014 low last week. Gains of nearly 3% Tuesday are pushing it near a three-month high.

And traders are all wondering if the winter of 2015 will bring a repeat of 2014.

“I think it’s a reasonable risk,” said Matt Rogers president and meteorologist at Commodity Weather Group in Bethesda, Md. An early season burst of cold starting next week is already “really spooking a lot of people.”

More than half of all U.S. homes use natural gas as their heating fuel, making the natural gas market especially vulnerable to weather. Tepid demand had capped the market for four months and had bankers and investors fearing a glut by the spring. The new forecasts have flipped that script, at least temporarily.

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