(Bloomberg) -- European gas futures fell as traders weighed ample stockpiles and progress on restarting a long-shut US liquefied natural gas plant against risks that demand may start picking up again.
Benchmark contracts dropped as much as 4.7% on Thursday after two days of gains. Freeport LNG in Texas, shuttered by an explosion last summer, received further approvals to restart activities, signaling more fuel shipments later this quarter. That should further bolster Europe’s supply, after a mild winter and energy-saving efforts helped to keep gas inventories well stocked and pushed prices lower.
Temperatures in parts of Europe are forecast to fall next week, possibly boosting demand for heating. “Nevertheless, strong fundamentals provide a safety net,” analysts at consultancy Alfa Energy Ltd. said in a note. “Thus the effect of the upcoming cold snap is being dampened before it hits the market.”
Dutch front-month futures, Europe’s gas benchmark, traded 3.4% lower at €57.50 a megawatt-hour by 12:38 p.m. in Amsterdam. The UK equivalent contract fell 2.8%.
Still, traders are closely watching for any signs of gas consumption picking up after the recent price drop — both in Europe and Asia — as that could lead to tighter global supplies given Russia’s severe cuts in exports.
“I would not declare an end to the energy crisis,” Shell Plc Chief Executive Officer Wael Sawan told Bloomberg TV on Thursday. “I think we have a way to go.”
For now, China’s demand for LNG remains lackluster, and fuel shipments to Europe stay higher than usual for the time of the year. But the market may see “a significant appetite” from the Asian nation again, according to Sawan.
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