(Bloomberg) -- European natural gas futures edged higher after a steep decline earlier this week, with traders weighing different weather forecasts to gauge fuel needs at the start of the heating season.

Benchmark futures added 3.9%. A potential slide in temperatures below seasonal norms is expected in the second half of this month, according to a Bloomberg model using Global Forecast System data. Its current estimate indicates the drop might be brief, but the weather will get colder anyway.

For now, Europe’s unseasonably warm autumn is curbing demand for gas, already reduced by lower fuel needs in the industrial and power sectors. But the first cold spell would be a test for the continent’s energy network facing its second winter with record low pipeline gas supplies from Russia. 

The global market remains tight and is still vulnerable to any shifts in fuel availability or usage. In Europe, daily gas consumption is normally double the current level during colder months given the fuel’s key role in heating.

For the time being, near-term gas demand appears subdued. Day-ahead gas traded in Amsterdam, Europe’s benchmark hub, has dropped significantly below month-ahead contracts this week, after a small premium in September. Volumes of liquefied natural gas that traders keep at sea globally for at least 20 days — waiting for more active purchases — rose toward last year’s records. Yet, some of that fuel could be released in Europe this month. 

In addition to changing weather forecasts, some traders are probably “taking up buying opportunities on a perhaps oversold market,” consultancy Zenergi said in a note.

Dutch front-month gas settled at €38.44 a megawatt-hour. The futures lost 12% in two previous sessions. Day-ahead prices in the Netherlands reversed earlier declines to gain as much as 9.9%.

--With assistance from Anna Shiryaevskaya.

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