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Market Takes Storage Stats in Stride; Futures Inch Higher

Natural gas futures got something of a lift Thursday morning off the release of government storage figures that were a little higher than what the market was anticipating.

For the week ended Oct. 24, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported an increase of 87 Bcf in its 10:30 a.m. EDT release. Market expectations were closer to 85 Bcf. December futures had made it to a high of $3.825 by the time the number was released, and by 10:45 a.m. December was trading at $3.800, up 1.2 cents from Wednesday's settlement.

A Reuters survey of 23 traders and analysts revealed an average increase of 85 Bcf with a range of 77 Bcf to 93 Bcf. IAF Advisors hit the nail on the head with an 87 Bcf estimate and Bentek Energy's flow model anticipated an injection of 87 Bcf.

"We were looking for 85 to 87 Bcf, and the market didn't make new highs or new lows after the number," said a New York floor trader. "The high was $3.836, which stood, and the low was $3.768. It was pretty much a non-event."

Randy Ollenberger, an analyst at BMO Nesbitt Burns, said they "believe the injection report will be viewed as slightly negative given that it was above expectations. The natural gas market is clearly comfortable with current storage levels for the upcoming winter heating season given the continued growth in the Marcellus and associated gas production. We believe natural gas prices are likely to drift until winter weather arrives."

"The EIA reported an injection of 87 Bcf versus market consensus of 85 Bcf for the past week.  This mildly bearish report pushed the market down slightly as it was up prior to the release of the storage report," said Phillip Golden, director of risk and product management at Energy Market Exchange in Houston. "With forecasts already calling for cooler weather in the coming weeks, the market has returned to a slightly upward position and looks likely to push upward again today."

Golden noted that natural gas market bulls might be corralling for a run. "The November natural gas contract closed up yesterday, rallying to $3.728/MMBtu, which represented a decline of 7.5% since the November 2014 natural gas contract became the prompt month contract on September 26. With mercury falling as we move towards winter, however, the market is poised for a rally, meaning that clients need to be ready to take advantage of market dips as they occur."

Inventories now stand at 3,480 Bcf and are 294 Bcf less than last year and 310 Bcf below the five-year average. In the East Region 41 Bcf was injected and the West Region saw inventories increase by 8 Bcf. Stocks in the Producing Region rose by 38 Bcf.

The Producing Region salt cavern storage figure added 13 Bcf from the previous week to 298 Bcf, while the non-salt cavern figure rose by 24 Bcf to 778 Bcf.

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