(Bloomberg) -- European natural gas prices extended gains to the highest level in almost four months on persistent supply concerns amid the worst energy crunch in decades.
Benchmark futures jumped as much as 3.7% for a fifth consecutive advance. European energy markets are in turmoil with Russia’s supplies at multiyear lows, coupled with intense competition for liquefied natural gas with Asia, where prices soared to the highest ever seen during the summer.
Traders are also closely watching exports from Norway, where strikes planned for this week threaten to cut gas and oil production. Output at three fields began shutting on Tuesday as the strike started, with two more walkouts planned in the coming days.
For now, shipment orders published by Norway’s grid operator show stable flows for Tuesday. But the strike could escalate on Wednesday and into the weekend if no solution to an ongoing wage dispute is found, according to a local union.
Dutch front-month gas futures, the European benchmark, rose 2.6% to 166.29 euros per megawatt-hour by 9 a.m. in Amsterdam. On Monday, the contract settled at the highest level since March 8.
Another near-term risk is that the Nord Stream pipeline -- Europe’s key channel for gas from Russia -- won’t restart after 10 days of maintenance that begin July 11. That’s a development the region’s biggest consumer, Germany, is already considering as an option.
Developments in the market are hard to predict, given “Russia’s unpredictable behavior,” the International Energy Agency said in its quarterly market report published Tuesday. “A complete cut of Russian gas flows cannot be excluded.”
A full cut of the supply made permanent is “the least likely scenario,” but chances that the Nord Stream flows will remain reduced are high, analysts at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. said in a note, raising its price forecasts for Europe.
For the moment, shipments through the pipeline remain at about 40% of capacity after Russia curbed supplies last month, citing technical issues.
Flows from Germany to Poland via the Yamal-Europe link dropped to zero early Tuesday, grid data show. That could be a signal traders are starting to save gas ahead of the Nord Stream works.
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