June natural gas opened 4 cents lower Thursday morning at $3.23 ahead of expected government storage figures anticipated to swell long term storage surpluses. Overnight oil markets plunged.
Traders are looking for a healthy build in the 10:30 a.m. eastern release of inventory data by the Energy Information Administration (EIA) but next week's storage figures are not expected to be quite as robust as an early spring storm makes its way across the country.
"More snow will blanket much of the Rockies through this weekend, and some lower elevations of the Front Range and High Plains will also see snow, including Denver," said Weather.com meteorologist Jon Erdman.
''Wet snow is increasingly likely Sunday into Monday in parts of the Upper Midwest, and the combination of wet snow and winds may lead to tree damage and power outages in the Upper Midwest. April may be wrapping up, but yet more snow will blanket the Rockies, High Plains and parts of the Upper Midwest through the weekend.
"Winter storm watches and warnings have been posted in the Rockies and High Plains from southern Montana to northeast New Mexico. This includes the foothills west of and Palmer Divide south of the city of Denver. The culprit for the increasingly cold, snowier pattern this week is a succession of sharpening southward plunges of the polar jet stream, known as troughs, swinging through the Rockies. The strongest of these jet stream nosedives will carve itself out over the Great Basin and Rockies by Friday, then get kicked into the Plains and upper Midwest this weekend,"said Erdman.
Analysts are looking for a storage build about 15 Bcf greater than the long-term average. Last year 64 Bcf was injected and the five-year rate stands at a 57 Bcf. "It was warmer than normal over most of the country, impressively so over the east - central US. Cool exceptions occurred over the Northwest and N. Plains," said Natgasweather.com in a morning report.
"Our algorithm predicts a build of +72 to +73 Bcf, in line with market expectations, although a trickier than normal build due to Good Friday/Easter Holiday, lighter WoW Mexico exports, strong nuke and pipeline maintenance as well as strong LNG exports."
Other estimates include Citi Futures Perspective with a 63 Bcf increase and Tradition Energy with a 77 Bcf calculation. A Reuters poll of 18 traders and analysts revealed an average 72 Bcf with a range of +62 Bcf to +91 Bcf.
In overnight Globex trading June crude oil fell 91 cents to $48.71/bbl and June RBOB gasoline lost 4 cents to $1.5588/gallon.