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Europe’s Natural Gas Prices Rally amid Supply Concerns   

European benchmark natural gas prices rallied on Wednesday and early Thursday amid growing supply concerns and forecasts of lower wind power generation later this week.

The Dutch TTF Natural Gas Futures, the benchmark for Europe’s gas trading, hit on Wednesday their highest level since January after Austria’s OMV warned the market that Russian state giant Gazprom could halt natural gas supply to Austria due to a foreign court ruling that could interrupt OMV payments to Gazprom Export.

The Austrian company assured the market that its unit OMV Gas Marketing & Trading GmbH (OGMT) “would still be able to supply its contractual customers with gas from alternative, non-Russian sources, through its extensive diversification efforts over the last several years.”

“In March, 93% of Austria's gas imports came from Russia. While a potential stoppage in these flows could lead to some localised tightening in the gas market, Europe as a whole should manage,” Warren Patterson and Ewa Manthey wrote in a note on Thursday.

Planned maintenance at some of Norway’s gas assets at the end of this month has also pushed up European gas prices.

Moreover, LSEG data cited by Reuters showed on Thursday that weather forecasters expect a sharp drop in wind speeds in northwest Europe from Friday. Germany, for example, is set to see wind speeds below the average for the season for the next two weeks. 

At the end of last month, portfolio managers boosted their bullish bets on Europe’s benchmark natural gas price to the highest level in six months, expecting continued volatility as Europe is now beginning to stockpile supplies for the next winter.  

Money managers have been concerned that unplanned outages in Norway during the summer, higher natural gas demand in Asia, and the end of the current gas transit deal for Russian pipeline gas to flow via Ukraine at the end of 2024 could sap gas supply for Europe and boost prices.

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By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com

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