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Natural Gas Bears Prowling After Plump EIA Storage Report

Natural gas futures fell following the release of government inventory figures showing an increase that was somewhat greater than what the market expected.

For the week ending April 3, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported an injection of 15 Bcf in its 10:30 a.m. EDT report on Thursday. May futures fell to a low of  $2.535 after the number was released and by 10:45 a.m. the contract was trading at $2.545, down 7.4 cents from Wednesday's settlement.

Prior to the release of the data, analysts were looking for an increase averaging about 10 Bcf. A Reuters survey of 20 traders and analysts showed an average 11 Bcf build with a range of +5 Bcf to +22 Bcf. Ritterbusch and Associates calculated an 8 Bcf increase, and industry consultant Genscape, utilizing a combined flow model and supply-demand model hit the nail on the head with a 15 Bcf increase.

"The market kind of fell out of bed. Volume is 62,000 contracts in the May, which is about average for a 'number' day, but if we settle two days in a row under $2.50, that will be a bearish sign," said a New York floor trader.

Tim Evans of Citi Futures Perspective said, "The data follows a bullish surprise in the prior week and so may reflect some timing issues between the two periods rather than a clear shift in the background supply-demand balance. The data also removes some risk of a bullish surprise and allows the market to focus forward again, with relatively mild temperatures pointing to larger than average storage injections later in the month."

Inventories now stand at 1,476 Bcf and are 651 Bcf greater than last year and 173 Bcf below the five-year average. In the East Region 18 Bcf was withdrawn and the West Region saw inventories increase by 7 Bcf. Stocks in the Producing Region rose by 26 Bcf.

The Producing Region salt cavern storage figure was up by 14 Bcf to 146 Bcf, while the non-salt cavern figure increased 12 Bcf to 471 Bcf.

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