U.S. natural gas futures were nearly steady on Tuesday in line with weather forecasts, but the market finished 2019 with its biggest annual decline since 2014.
The contract posted a yearly fall of 25.5%, after ending 2018 nearly unchanged. It was one of the biggest decliners among commodities in 2019.
For the month, natural gas futures fell about 4%, their second straight monthly loss.
Front-month gas futures for February delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange were up 0.3 cent, or 0.1%, to settle at $2.189 per million British thermal units (mmBtu), in thin volume ahead of the New Year’s holiday.
On Friday, the contract had slumped to its lowest level since Aug. 23 at $2.138 mmBtu.
“We are coming up to the last day of the year, so people are probably not that interested (in natural gas),” said Thomas Saal, senior vice president of energy at INTL FCStone, adding there is not much change in the moderate weather forecast from the previous day.
Data provider Refinitiv predicted 409 heating degree days (HDDs) over the next two weeks in the lower 48 U.S. states, compared with the 30-year average of 461, indicating warmer than normal temperatures.
Refinitiv also predicted demand, including exports, would fall to an average of 111.3 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) this week from 112.4 bcfd in the prior week.
Traders noted prices have dropped nearly 25% from the eight-month high of $2.905 per mmBtu hit in early November, citing mild weather and expectations that inventories will still rise over the five-year average in coming weeks.
Near-record production enables utilities to leave more gas in storage, wiping away lingering concerns of supply shortages and price spikes during the winter.
Utilities pulled 161 billion cubic feet (bcf) of gas from storage during the week ended Dec. 20. That compares with a decline of 61 bcf during the same week last year and a five-year (2014-18) average reduction of 101 bcf.