Following the Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) 46 Bcf natural gas storage withdrawal report Friday for the week ended Dec. 22, February natural gas immediately plunged to a low of $6.00 before rebounding just a minute later. In thin trading on the day, the prompt month settled early at 1 p.m. EST at $6.299, up 5.1 cents on the day but 51.1 cents lower for the week. January futures expired Wednesday at $5.838.

The 46 Bcf withdrawal came in on the low side of the 44 Bcf to 101 Bcf range of expectations, while most average expectations were between 55 to 64 Bcf. Golden, CO-based Bentek Energy hit the 46 Bcf withdrawal number on the head using its storage gas flow model methodology. Compared to historical withdrawals, the 46 Bcf pull was definitely bearish, falling well short of the 162 Bcf pull last year and the 127 Bcf five-year average withdrawal.

“The storage report was pretty meaningless, especially because there are not too many people left to care,” said Ed Kennedy with Commercial Brokerage Corp. in Miami.

Following the lead of the major stock exchanges, the New York Mercantile Exchange Inc. (Nymex) said Friday afternoon its Nymex and Comex division trading floors in New York will be closed on Tuesday, Jan. 2 in observance of the national day of mourning for the 38th President of the United States, Gerald Ford.

Earlier in the day, the New York Stock Exchange, the Nasdaq Stock Market, the American Stock Exchange, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the Chicago Board Options Exchange all said they would be closed on Tuesday. All federal offices except those necessary for national security will also be closed.

While the Nymex floors are closed, the exchange said electronic trading of all Nymex and Comex division products through the Chicago Mercantile Exchange’s Globex electronic system will be available as a risk management service to the exchange’s global energy and metals customer base from 6 p.m. Monday until 5:15 p.m. Tuesday. Nymex ClearPort will also be available for trading and clearing of energy products and Nymex Softs products.

“No one is going to take a big position ahead of a three-day — or maybe four-day weekend if Nymex closes to mourn Ford — when what they would be betting on is weather,” Kennedy said prior to the Nymex announcement. “We know we have a lot of gas in storage, so weather remains king. Will the warmer-than-normal weather pattern continue next week? We will have to see.”

“We are very happy about the four-day weekend,” said a Washington, DC-based broker, who added that activity on Friday was sparse. “I think the knee-jerk lower following the storage report and the subsequent recovery was just a function of the very thin trading community.

“Even though we strung together two up days, I still put that more in the category of short-covering as opposed to any kind of reversal,” he said. “We are still dominated by a very bearish weather pattern. The question is whether people will now come in on Wednesday and pass judgment on the weather for the entire month of January. If they write off January as warm, then we really don’t have much winter left to turn things around.”

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