Natural gas futures vaulted higher Thursday morning but quickly settled back after the Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported a storage withdrawal for the week ending July 29.
Traders knew going into the report that any build would be minimal, but the 6 Bcf pull was towards the upper end of the range of expectations.
The EIA reported a 6 Bcf withdrawal in its 10:30 a.m. EDT release, which marked only the second time in the 22-year history of storage records that a withdrawal was made during the month of July. The only other time this occurred was in 2006.
The 6 Bcf pull on storage put inventories at 2,899 Bcf and September futures rose to a high of $2.885, but by 10:45 a.m. September was trading at $2.836 down three-tenths of a cent from Wednesday's settlement.
Others were more surprised by the reaction. "It was really kind of shocking. It really surprised me the market's reaction," said Steve Blair, vice president at Rafferty and Co. "We surged higher, but now we are trading lower on the day."
"The 6 Bcf net withdrawal from natural gas storage for last week was the first summer draw since August 2006," said Tim Evans of Citi Futures Perspective. "The result was bullish relative to consensus expectations for a 2-3 Bcf net injection and in comparison with the 54-Bcf five-year average build for the date. The report also extends the recent string of bullish storage misses, tending to confirm that power sector demand has been more sensitive to summer heat than anticipated."
Others weren't quite so surprised. "The ICE Swap was trading -4 Bcf to -6 Bcf just before the number came out, so it was already in the market," a New York floor trader told NGI
Inventories now stand at 3,288 Bcf and are 389 Bcf greater than last year and 464 Bcf more than the five-year average. In the East Region 14 Bcf was injected, and the Midwest Region saw inventories grow by 10 Bcf. Stocks in the Mountain Region were unchanged, and the Pacific region was down 4 Bcf. The typically opaque South Central Region fell a stout 26 Bcf.
Salt cavern storage was down 16 Bcf at 320 Bcf, while the non-salt cavern figure dropped 11 Bcf to 886 Bcf.