Natural gas futures dropped following the release of government storage figures that were about what traders had been expecting.
The injection of 97 Bcf was about equal to the average of analyst estimates, which ranged from 88 Bcf to 101 Bcf. For the week ended Sept. 19, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported an increase of 97 Bcf in its 10:30 a.m. EDT release. October futures fell to a low of $3.823 soon after the number was released and by 10:45 a.m. October was trading at $3.880, down 3.1 cents from Wednesday's settlement.
Prior to the release of the data, analysts were looking for a build of just under 100 Bcf. A Reuters survey of 25 traders and analysts revealed an average increase of 94 Bcf with a range of 88-101 Bcf. United ICAP was looking for a build of 97 Bcf. Bentek Energy's flow model also anticipated an injection of 97 Bcf.
"Most guys were looking in the 98 Bcf range, so it came in pretty much as expected," said a New York floor trader. "To get this market moving one way or another, there is going to have to be a big weather-related event. If you look at these numbers, these are big for this time of year, but the market did not react so that has to tell you something."
Others see the market indicating ongoing bearishness. "The 97 Bcf build for last week was slightly more than the consensus expectation and also bearish relative to the 79 Bcf five-year average for the date," said Tim Evans of Citi Futures Perspective. "It suggests a somewhat weaker background supply-demand balance that could also contribute to somewhat larger builds for the weeks ahead. The early price reaction suggests some relief that it wasn't even larger, but this was bearish news in our view."
Inventories now stand at 2,988 Bcf and are 386 Bcf less than last year and 426 Bcf below the five-year average. In the East Region 66 Bcf was injected and the West Region saw inventories unchanged. Inventories in the Producing Region rose by 31 Bcf.
The Producing region salt cavern storage figure added 12 Bcf from the previous week to 234 Bcf, while the non-salt cavern figure rose by 20 Bcf to 664 Bcf.