January natural gas prices began the Sunday evening trade with a sharply lower open that registered a new contract low. Some traders suggest that the natural gas market continues to struggle with unseasonably warm temperatures along the Eastern US. The National Weather Service expects this week's heat-related demand for natural gas to run more than 14.5% below normal. While reports Friday from Baker Hughes showed the sixth consecutive weekly decline in natural gas rig counts, near record levels of storage and production continue to weigh over prices. The Commitments of Traders Futures and Options report as of December 6th showed non-commercial traders were net short 168,166 contracts, a decrease of 2,726. Non-Commercial and nonreportable traders combined held a net short position of 148,475 contracts, a decrease of 5,104 in their net short positioning.