Natural gas futures fell but recovered following the release of government inventory figures showing an increase in working gas storage well above what the market had been expecting.
For the week ended Aug. 21, the Energy Information Administration reported an injection of 69 Bcf in its 10:30 a.m. EDT release, and the expiring September futures contract fell to a low of $2.630. By 10:45 a.m., September was trading at $2.678, down 1.5 cents from Wednesday's settlement.
Prior to the release of the data, analysts were looking for an increase near 60 Bcf. ICAP Energy estimated 61 Bcf, and IAF Advisors had calculated a 61 Bcf increase as well. A Reuters poll of 20 traders and analysts showed an average 59 Bcf with a range of 47 to 64 Bcf.
"I don't get why it would rally back after a bearish number," said a New York floor trader. "The high side of expectations was 64 Bcf, With 69 Bcf, what is going on here? Perhaps people were looking to get in this market at lower levels and saw the low $2.60s as an opportunity."
Analysts see an inconsistency in reports that makes an accurate assessment difficult. Tim Evans of Citi Futures Perspective called the report "a clear bearish surprise. In terms of the larger pattern here, we note there has been considerable volatility in recent reports, with some alternation between bullish and bearish surprises that makes it difficult to forecast and difficult to assess the background supply-demand balance."
Inventories now stand at 3,099 Bcf and are 480 Bcf greater than last year and 88 Bcf more than the five-year average. In the East Region 53 Bcf was injected and the West Region saw inventories increase by 4 Bcf. Stocks in the Producing Region rose by 12 Bcf.
The Producing Region salt cavern storage figure was up 1 Bcf at 287 Bcf, while the non-salt cavern figure increased 11 Bcf to 823 Bcf.