September natural gas is expected to open a penny higher Thursday morning at $3.84 as traders see some modest bullish risk to the morning release of government storage figures. Overnight oil markets fell.
The 10:30 a.m. EDT release of storage data is expected to show another stout reduction in the storage deficit relative to both last year and the five-year averages. Current thinking is in the neighborhood of 84 Bcf, but as previous Thursday's have shown, a difference of just a few Bcf from expectations can mean sizeable price moves. Last year, 70 Bcf was injected, and the five-year average is for a 45 Bcf increase.
IAF Advisors of Houston calculates a build of 85 Bcf, and United ICAP comes up with an 83 Bcf injection. A Reuters survey of 24 traders and analysts revealed an average of 83 Bcf with a range of 75-91 Bcf.
Analysts suggest that there might be some risk to a lower number due to a higher power burn last week. Bentek Energy's forecast utilizing its flow model is for an 84 Bcf injection. "The West Region is expected to double its injection from the previous week, which will help the total build for the week increase from the previous week, despite a modest uptick in power burn. The increase in power burn was centered in the East Region, which grew nearly 0.6 Bcf/d from the previous week and cut Bentek's total sample injections within the region by 5 Bcf from the previous week, which was offset by stronger sample injections within the Producing and West regions," the company said.
Looking forward, Bentek comes in on the high side of estimates for season-ending inventory builds. "Even with the high power demand relative to recent summer levels, the storage injection marks a strong build compared to historic averages and brings inventories near the 2.4 Tcf mark to start August, which keeps the projected end-of-season inventory mark on track to reach above 3.5 Tcf, and a continuation of mild weather in August from July could push inventories closer to 3.6 Tcf by the end of the refill season," it said.
NatgasWeather.com sees Wednesday's price slide getting more than its fair share of assistance from near-term weather forecasts. "[Y]ou would have to give an assist to weather patterns as they were very bearish to start the week and then gradually trended cooler for the last week of August, especially over the northern U.S. The coming warm-up next week will still happen and should bring summer temperatures to the East Coast for several days. So while the warm up has flaws, there will still be regions of the country experiencing reasonably hot temperatures, such as the southern and eastern U.S. This will bring a bit leaner builds after the next two, but they will still be much larger than normal," the company said in a report.
"[Thursday's] build is expected to come in around 81-84 Bcf, which would again be more than 30 Bcf greater than the five-year average. Momentum clearly now favors the bears, and we expect if the number comes in neutral or larger than estimates, prices will likely continue to sell off toward $3.75. We thought $3.75 might at some point get tested again due to strong bearish weather headwinds, we just didn't think it would get there over a 24-hour period. This makes $3.75 more vulnerable this time around. We continue to view weather patterns and builds as bearish which should continue to pressure prices for a little while longer. However, they will ease a bit next week as warmer temperatures begin to take hold."
In overnight Globex trading September crude oil fell 13 cents to $97.46/bbl and September RBOB gasoline dropped a penny to $2.7440/gal.