Cash prices advanced 8 cents on average Thursday as a winter storm that began in the West and Rockies marched through the Great Plains and into the Great Lakes. Only a few Northeast points showed declines.
The Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported a withdrawal of 82 Bcf from gas storage, more than what most traders were expecting, and at the close January futures were up 14.2 cents to $3.462 and February had added 12.9 cents to $3.495. February crude oil rose 15 cents to $90.13/bbl.
Next-day prices in the Midwest and Midcontinent rose following a blizzard that ripped across the nation's midsection causing dangerous travel conditions and power outages. Following the storm, skies were expected to clear and temperatures drop.
The National Weather Service in Chicago predicted that the "Tail end of wrap-around snow and lake effect [snow] may still be ongoing early Friday morning, but all precipitation should be done by middle morning [Friday]. Skies will be clearing west to east in the morning. Core of coldest air will be over the area Friday morning...and min[imum] temperatures may occur a couple hours after sunrise Friday morning.
Traders did get a better handle on December usage with the 10:30 a.m. release of Energy Information Administration inventory figures for the week ended Dec. 14. Last year at this time, 100 Bcf was withdrawn, and the five-year average stands at a stout 144 Bcf. Analysts at Tradition Energy predicted a withdrawal of 75 Bcf, and a Reuters poll of 25 traders and analysts showed an average 72 Bcf with a wide range of minus 49 to minus 83 Bcf. Bentek Energy predicted a 77 Bcf draw.
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