(Bloomberg) -- Natural gas prices slipped after a volatile session, with traders weighing European Union efforts to ease the burden of higher bills for consumers against an outlook for colder weather, which could boost demand.
Benchmark futures settled 4.9% lower after jumping as much as 13% earlier. Seven EU member states made a renewed push for a more effective cap on gas prices, according to a document seen by Bloomberg News. The decline erased gains spurred by forecasts that temperatures across the region are set to plummet this month after a relatively mild November.
Read More: Seven EU Countries Make Fresh Push for Dynamic Gas Price Cap
Europe has been trying to reach consensus on how to ease its energy crisis, which could be worsened with a harsh winter that leaves the market exposed to further supply squeezes. Liquefied natural gas has helped replenish missing Russian pipeline shipments and fill reservoirs, but stockpiles are starting to decline.
Gas prices are four times higher than normal for this time of year, fueling inflation and hurting economies. With less than two weeks to go before EU energy ministers meet to seek an agreement, countries including Italy, Belgium and Greece are pushing for a tighter price cap that moves with rates set at key international hubs.
European leaders have been urging consumers to conserve energy in an effort to get through the winter. The continent is also trying to speed the construction of infrastructure to receive more LNG, with Germany expected to have its first import terminals ready this month. But if a cold snap also hits Asia, competition for cargoes could surge, potentially driving up prices.
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“High gas prices have already seen companies and households dial down their consumption considerably, and have enabled Europe to snag a flotilla of liquefied natural gas cargoes, fending off competition from Asia,” Nilushi Karunaratne, an analyst at BloombergNEF said Thursday. “But what shape the region ultimately emerges in come March remains to be seen.”
Demand for gas-fired generation could also get a boost from poor wind conditions. Weather forecasts point to moderate-to-low wind power potential for the UK, continental Europe and the Nordics over the next two weeks.
Dutch front-month futures, the European benchmark, dropped to €139.26 per megawatt-hour after two days of gains. The UK equivalent contract also declined, losing 6.9%.
Dutch gas may range between €100 and €200 next year, and there is still “upside” for the contract, Francisco Blanch, head of commodities research at Bank of America Corp., said Thursday. “2023 LNG balances look very tight, and continued EU consumer and corporate demand subsidies are supportive of prices.”
--With assistance from Josefine Fokuhl and Elena Mazneva.
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