November natural gas is expected to open 3 cents higher Thursday morning at $2.55 as traders assess what they see as an oversold market that is ready to advance once cooler weather emerges. Overnight oil markets were mixed.
Recent historical patterns for natural gas futures suggest a late-October market bottom, say market technicians. According to Brian LaRose, a market analyst with United ICAP, "natural gas has been able to carve out a bottom into late October in each of the last two years. In 2013, natgas rallied from a low $3.379 to a high of $6.493, a gain of 92%. In 2014, natural gas rallied from a low of $3.541 to a high of $4.544, a gain of only 28% (thanks, OPEC). As long as natgas can hold $4.385, bulls will have a case for a seasonal rally in 2015," he said in closing comments Wednesday.
Any seasonal rally will have to face strong headwinds in the form of ample, if not burdensome, inventories. The 10:30 a.m. EDT inventory report by the Energy Information Administration (EIA) will give traders a better idea just how ample supplies will be going into what could be an El Nino winter capable of lowering normally stout seasonal demand.
Inventories currently stand at 3,633 Bcf, and with four weeks to go on the traditional injection season, weekly builds of 92 Bcf would put the industry above 4 Tcf and at new record levels. This week's estimated build report looks to keep that momentum going. For the week ended Oct. 9, Stephen Smith Energy calculates a build of 89 Bcf, and Ritterbusch and Associates is looking for additions of 95 Bcf. A Reuters survey of 29 traders and analysts showed a sample average of 93 Bcf with a range of 86 to 104 Bcf.
Last year, 96 Bcf was injected, and the five-year average stands at 87 Bcf.
Analysts recognize the potentially bearish implications for such a large inventory going into the heating season, but Tim Evans of Citi Futures Perspective see the market as "conservatively valued and oversold, which should limit the downside and could translate into a short-covering rally on any early heating season cold."
In overnight Globex trading, November crude oil dropped 42 cents to $46.22/bbl and November RBOB gasoline rose a penny to $1.3225/gal.