Natural gas futures jumped Thursday morning after the Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported a storage injection that was less than what traders were expecting.
EIA reported a 2 Bcf storage build in its 10:30 a.m. EDT release, about 5 Bcf shy of industry estimates. May futures bounded higher and lower after the number came out and traded as high as $3.334 and as low as $3.270 after its release. At 10:45 a.m. May was trading at $3.311, up 4.5 cents from Wednesday's settlement.
Prior to the release of the data, Wells Fargo Securities LLC was looking for an injection of 13 Bcf. A Reuters survey of 22 traders and analysts showed an average 7 Bcf increase with a range of -14 Bcf to +15 Bcf.
Last year 6 Bcf was injected, and the five-year pace stands at a 12 Bcf decline.
"If the market stays above $3.31, I think they will take out $3.35. Right now the market feels supportive," said a New York floor trader.
Others didn't see the number as supportive. "We believe the storage report will be viewed as neutral," said Randy Ollenberger, an analyst with BMO Capital Markets. "Storage is trending below last year's levels; however, rising associated gas production should keep U.S. storage levels at or above five-year averages, assuming normal weather."
"The 2 Bcf net injection into U.S. natural gas storage for the week ended March 31 was smaller than expected and so supportive in the near term, even as the build was still bearish relative to the 13 Bcf five-year average draw," said Tim Evans of Citi Futures Perspective. "The surprise implies a somewhat tighter supply/demand balance, which may carry over into future periods."
Inventories now stand at 2,051 Bcf and are 427 Bcf less than last year and 265 Bcf greater than the five-year average.
In the East Region 10 Bcf was withdrawn and the Midwest Region saw inventories decrease by 7 Bcf. Stocks in the Mountain Region were up 1 Bcf and the Pacific Region was up 4 Bcf. The South Central Region increased 14 Bcf.
Salt Cavern storage was up 6 Bcf at 295 Bcf and non-salt storage was up 7 Bcf to 651 Bcf.