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Futures Bend But Don't Break Following Bearish NatGas Storage Stats

Natural gas futures fell Thursday morning after the Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported a storage injection that was greater than what the industry was expecting.

EIA reported a 54 Bcf storage build in its 10:30 a.m. EDT release, about 6 Bcf greater than industry estimates. May futures retreated after the number came out and traded as low as $3.138. At 10:45 a.m. May was trading at $3.150, down 3.5 cents from Wednesday's settlement.

Before the number was released, Ritterbusch and Associates predicted a build of 28 Bcf and Tradition Energy was expecting a 52 Bcf increase. A Reuters survey of 24 traders and analysts revealed an average 48 Bcf injection with a range of 28-55 Bcf.

In the same week last year, 6 Bcf was injected and the five-year pace is for a 35 Bcf build.

"We were hearing a number of 46 to 48 Bcf, so this is a little bearish," said a New York floor trader. Based on market responses to previous storage reports, however, he said he expected the market to work back toward unchanged if not higher on the day.

"The 54 Bcf in net injections was more than the consensus expectation, above the 35 Bcf five-year average for the week and implies a somewhat weaker supply/demand balance than in recent weeks, a bearish combination," said Tim Evans of Citi Futures Perspective.

Others also echoed the negative tonality. "We believe the storage report will be viewed as slightly negative. 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," said Randy Ollenberger, an analyst with BMO Capital Markets.

Inventories now stand at 2,115 Bcf and are 368 Bcf less than last year and 282 Bcf greater than the five-year average. In the East Region 12 Bcf was injected, and the Midwest Region saw inventories rise by 11 Bcf. Stocks in the Mountain Region were greater by 3 Bcf and the Pacific Region was up 2 Bcf. The South Central Region increased 26 Bcf.

Salt Cavern storage was up 13 Bcf at 314 Bcf and non-salt storage was up 14 Bcf to 670 Bcf.

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