Natural gas futures moved higher Thursday morning following the release of government natural gas storage figures, which revealed that 64 Bcf was withdrawn from underground storage for the week ending Dec. 12. The number was slightly higher than industry expectations, but well below historical comparisons.
The Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported a decrease of 64 Bcf in its 10:30 a.m. EST release on Thursday, about 4 Bcf greater than estimates, but miles below both last year’s a polar vortex-driven 256 Bcf withdrawal for the week, and the five-year average withdrawal of 157 Bcf. January natural gas futures rose to a high of $3.805 after the number was released, and by 10:45 a.m., January was trading at $3.755, up 5.3 cents from Wednesday's settlement.
Prior to the release of the data, analysts were looking for a decrease of about 60 Bcf. An analysis by ICAP Energy revealed a pull of 63 Bcf, and IAF Advisors analysts calculated a 61 Bcf decline. Bentek Energy's flow model anticipated a withdrawal of 60 Bcf.
"We were looking around the 60 Bcf level, and the market was trading around $3.755 when the number came out. This wasn't much of a higher push at all," said a New York floor trader. "We are still in our $3.50 to $4 trading range."
Citi Futures analyst Tim Evans viewed the report as supportive. “The 64 Bcf net withdrawal was moderately above the 60-bcf consensus expectation, implying a slightly firmer supply/demand balance that may carry over into future weeks.”
While Thursday's report may not have much market impact Teri Viswanath, director of natural gas commodities strategy for BNP Paribas, said, "the market is looking beyond the string of low weekly storage withdrawals to more significant stock reductions ahead."
Inventories now stand at 3,295 Bcf and are 6 Bcf greater than last year and 258 Bcf below the five-year average. In the East Region 55 Bcf was withdrawn, and the West Region saw inventories increase 1 Bcf. Stocks in the Producing Region fell by 10 Bcf.
The Producing Region salt cavern storage figure added 2 Bcf from the previous week to 325 Bcf, while the non-salt cavern figure fell by 13 Bcf to 774 Bcf.