1221 ET — Natural-gas inventories likely fell more than usual last week as a cold snap across much of the U.S. lifted demand, but the boost could be short-lived as forecasts remain for a mild first half of December. The Energy Information Administration is expected to report that natural gas in underground storage fell by 110 billion cubic feet to 3,726 billion cubic feet in the week end Dec. 1, according to the average forecast of 11 analysts, brokers and traders in a survey by The Wall Street Journal. All 11 analysts foresee a draw, with estimates ranging from a reduction of 99 Bcf to one of 127 Bcf. The EIA is due to release its report at 10:30 a.m. EST Thursday. The expected draw follows a surprise 10 Bcf injection the previous week. Natural gas inventories in the lower 48 states stood at 3,836 Bcf on Nov. 24, which was 8.6% above the five-year average for the week, according to the EIA. “A much larger than normal storage withdrawal tomorrow is unlikely to spur much price support since our anticipated contraction of about 40 Bcf in the surplus could easily be offset as this month proceeds, given the continued mild weather outlooks,” Ritterbusch and Associates said in a report. After starting slightly higher Wednesday, natural gas for January delivery turned sharply lower and was down 12 cents or 4.6% at $2.586 dollars per million British thermal units. (anthony.harrup@wsj.com)

Natural Gas Futures Edge Higher Without Much Help From Weather

0903 ET — Natural gas futures are adding to yesterday’s modest gains as the market awaits colder weather in the U.S. to bolster demand for the heating fuel. Natural gas for January delivery is up 4 cents or 1.3% at $2.746/mmBtu. Near-term forecasts overnight were somewhat cooler, but still above-normal for the time of year, NatGasWeather.com says in a report. “Bearish weather headwinds will continue into the foreseeable future,” the forecaster adds. The milder first half of December is seen likely to offset any price boost that could come from this week’s EIA storage report due Thursday, in which an above-average draw in the week ended Dec. 1 is expected. (anthony.harrup@wsj.com)

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