June natural gas is set to open a penny higher Thursday morning at $4.48 as traders hone their short-term trading algorithms and expect the season's second triple-digit increase in working gas inventories. Overnight oil markets were mixed.
Weather bulls may have a tough go of it in the next three weeks if the WeatherBELL Analytics 20-day forecast holds true to form. Extended heat doesn't seem to be in the cards. "First of all, it's going to be tough to get it very hot this summer in any given area. I am worried about the last two weeks of June, with more heat trying to hit and hold," said meteorologist Joe Bastardi. "As of this writing, the JMA [Japan Meteorological Agency weather model] is trending cooler [by establishing a trough Week 2 into Week 4].
"The [heavy] rains forecasted cut into the threat of major heat waves (i.e., 7 days of 90 degrees in Chicago or New York City, or three to five days of 95 degrees in DC). The actual ensemble temperatures on the ECMWF [European model] show the height of the warmth is indeed warm, but it still pours cold water on a true major heat wave, like we saw to end May last year, for instance."
Most analysts are showing an expected build in natural gas inventories of just over 100 Bcf, well above last year's and the five-year average injection of 90 Bcf. Bentek is forecasting a 101 Bcf increase utilizing its flow model, but it admits that there were some wrinkles in the data. "Fundamentals pointed toward a stronger build week-over-week, with demand falling slightly combined with the highest weekly production levels on record at 67.8 Bcf/d. Despite the bearish fundamentals, storage injections fell, with Bentek's total sample dropping 3 Bcf week-over-week, with the largest fall concentrated in the West Region while injection activity increased in the East," the firm said.
Bentek is right in line with a Reuters poll of 28 industry cognoscenti at 102 Bcf and Citi Futures Perspective also at 102 Bcf. The Reuters poll, however, had a wide range of 88 Bcf to 109 Bcf. United ICAP came in at a 111 Bcf estimate.
Tuesday's gains and Wednesday's like-minded pullback have technical analysts thinking recent strength, which took June up to $4.57 isn't going to last, but the market needs to trade down another 12 cents or so to vindicate the bearish argument. "From the perspective of a spot continuation chart, fresh lows look unlikely. However, when we look to the individual contracts and the medium-term technicals, the case for a significant low being in place at $4.289 quickly loses any appeal," said Brian LaRose, analyst at United ICAP. "As such, we continue to view this advance as corrective. To indicate this advance has already run its course $4.350 will need to be broken," he said in closing comments Wednesday to clients.
In overnight Globex trading July crude oil eased 10 cents to $103.97/bbl and July RBOB gasoline rose a half cent to $2.9864/gal.