European gas prices hit six-month low as warm weather masks high demand

  • Commodities News
European gas prices hit six-month low as warm weather masks high demand

By Geoffrey Smith -- European natural gas prices extended their recent slump on Friday, front-month futures falling to the lowest levels since June in response to warmer weather across Europe that has offered countries a rare chance to replenish reserves.

By 07:30 ET (12:30 GMT), the January TTF contract in the Netherlands, which serves as a benchmark for northwest Europe, was down 7.4% at €85.10 a megawatt-hour, having earlier fallen as low as €82.86/MWh.

It's the latest in a series of dramatic falls in the last two weeks, as market participants have become markedly more relaxed about the supply/demand outlook over the rest of the winter. The January contract has fallen by over 40% from just under €150/MWh in a little over two weeks.

The biggest element in that swing has been the weather: a cold snap at the start of December had raised fears that the continent would draw down its reserves much faster, leaving it dangerously short of gas by the end of winter. However, unseasonably warm temperatures have returned this week and are set to remain across much of the continent through the end of the year.

That allowed Germany, the continent's biggest consumer, the luxury on Wednesday of actually injecting more gas into storage than it withdrew. According to data from Bundesnetzagentur, the national grid regulator, the country's storage facilities were 87.3% full on Wednesday, well above the 75.4% level that would be considered concerning at this stage of the winter.

However, Bundesnetzagentur's data also show that it is only the weather, rather than more disciplined consumption, that has allowed this situation. Gas consumption is now running at unsustainable levels adjusted for temperatures, the BNA's data show, having risen sharply since the government approved an enormous subsidy package last month that will cap prices for most of the needs of both households and industry.

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