Natural gas prices surged to a more than four-year high in panicky and volatile trading Wednesday, after the latest cold weather forecasts raised fears that the U.S. is heading for a potentially colder-than-expected winter with too little gas supply.
Futures for December settled up 18 percent at $4.837 per mmBtus but had been up as much as 20 percent in an early morning rush of panic buying. Prices also rose across futures contracts that that would cover the winter months through March, indicating that prices could be pressured all winter by dwindling supply, which is at a 15-year low for this time of year.
CME Group said trading in natural gas futures hit an all time daily volume record of more than 1.2 million contracts, as the price had its biggest one day jump in years. The price for the front month futures for Decemeber is now the highest since Feb. 26, 2014.
"Overnight, there was another round of cold trends, and that kind of lit the fuse and everything exploded," said Jacob Meisel, chief weather analyst at Bespoke Weather Services. "Some of the later overnight weather models trended much colder...the six to 10 and 11 to 15 day [forecasts] both saw rather significant cold trends. It wasn't like we were looking at periods of very major sustained warming. We've just been continually trending colder and colder."