By Myra P. Saefong and William Watts
Natural-gas futures dropped by nearly 7% on Thursday, pressured by recent reports Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered Gazprom to send more natural gas to Europe next month.
Oil futures, meanwhile, finished with modest gain, recouping a small portion of the more than 2% they lost Wednesday, but Brent oil settled lower after Iran signaled renewed interest in talks aimed at reviving its nuclear accord.
Russian President Vladimir Putin told Gazprom to ship more natural-gas westward, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday . In a transcript of a videoconference between Putin and Gazprom Chief Executive Alexei Miller, Russia’s president told the executive to ““start consistent and planned work on increasing the amount of gas in your underground depots in Europe” as soon as Nov. 8.
Reports of Putin’s order had emerged on Wednesday, prompting U.S. natural-gas prices to briefly trade lower.
Meanwhile, the Energy Information Administration reported on Thursday that domestic supplies of natural gas rose by 87 billion cubic feet for the week ended Oct. 22. On average, analysts forecast an increase of 90 billion cubic feet, according to a survey conducted by S&P Global Platts.
The weekly climb came in well above the five-year average supply build, which stands at 62 bcf and at the same time a year ago, the EIA reported a 32 bcf addition to supplies in storage, according to S&P Global Platts.
December natural gas fell 42 cents, or 6.7%, to settle at $5.782 per million British thermal units, the lowest front-month finish in two weeks, according to Dow Jones Market Data.
Oil prices took separate paths, with U.S. prices recouping a small portion of what it lost a day earlier, but global prices extending their decline from Wednesday.
Iran has indicated it plans to resume talks on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, known as the Iran nuclear deal. The U.S. withdrew from the JPCOA in 2018, under the Trump administration.
“In the initial weeks of the Biden administration, there was speculation that a quick U.S. return to the deal could be imminent, but rising tensions between the two countries and more hardline political shift in the latest Iranian elections have complicated any plans for a revised deal,” said Robbie Fraser, global research & analytics manager at Schneider Electric, in a daily note. Talks between the country and world powers to restore the 2015 deal were suspended in June.
“If a new round of talks proves productive though, it could see a rapid return of Iranian crude exports, with enough volume to potentially counter the total level of undersupply in the market based on recent data,” Fraser said.
West Texas Intermediate crude for December delivery /zigman2/quotes/209723049/delayed CL00 -13.04% rose 15 cents, or 0.2%, to settle at $82.81 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
December Brent crude , the global benchmark, fell 26 cents, or 0.3%, to settle at $84.32 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe, while January Brent , the most actively traded contract, declined by 21 cents, or almost 0.3%, to $83.66 a barrel.
Oil futures fell more than 2% Wednesday, extending losses after Iran’s chief negotiator, Ali Bagheri, said that Iran would return to nuclear discussions before the end of November.
“The ultimate goal of talks would be for the nuclear deal to be fully restored, which would also likely mean the lifting of U.S. sanctions on Iran. How talks evolve will be important for the oil outlook in 2022,” said Warren Patterson, head of commodities strategy at ING, in a note.
“We are currently assuming that Iranian output at the end of 2022 is around 1.3 million barrels a day higher than where it starts the year,” he said. “If we were not to see this increase in supply next year, the market would likely be much more balanced than we currently expect it to be in 2022.”
Data from the Energy Information Administration on Wednesday showed that U.S. crude inventories rose by 4.3 million barrels for the week ended Oct. 22, with the data helping to weaken prices for the oil during the trading session .
However, the EIA also reported another sizable decline in crude inventories at the Cushing, Okla., Nymex delivery hub, prompting Matt Smith, lead oil analyst, Americas, at Kpler to raise the alarm that storage at the hub could be “close to tank bottoms by December.”
On Thursday, November gasoline shed 0.6% to $2.435 a gallon, while November heating oil ended nearly flat, up less than 0.1% to $2.517 a gallon. The November contracts expire at the end of Friday’s trading session.