June natural gas is expected to open 4 cents lower Thursday morning at $2.57 as traders not only estimate that government supply data will be well above historical averages, but also sense that industry estimates may be low of the mark. Overnight oil markets rose.
The 10:30 a.m. EDT release of storage data by the Energy Information Administration should give traders a better idea of just how large the upcoming injection season might be. Last week's reported build of 90 Bcf was double that of a year earlier and nearly double the five-year average. For the week of April 24 a somewhat similar scenario is unfolding, with industry estimates far ahead of both last year and the five-year average.
Last year, 77 Bcf was injected, and the five-year pace stands at 56 Bcf. Ritterbusch and Associates calculates an increase of 85 Bcf, and a Reuters survey of 24 traders and analysts showed a sample average of 85 Bcf as well with a range of 70 Bcf to 94 Bcf. Bentek Energy's flow model is looking for an injection of 91 Bcf.
"Maintenance within the Northeast during the week cut production within Bentek's sample; however, this was largely offset by increased receipts in the Southeast offshore sample, which kept production above 72.0 Bcf/d throughout the week and kept the average near 72.9 Bcf/d," the firm said. "Injection activity picked up within the Producing and West regions compared to the previous week, and the breakneck pace set by the Producing Region is expected to continue this week. The salt dome facilities are already back above five-year average levels and are approaching five-year max levels for this time of year."
Students of the weekly report see something not correct. The folks at Energy Metro Desk (EMD) said, "We see our Survey Index this week came in at 87 Bcf, and we have a sense that the EIA will come in higher than that number by 5 or more. The range is way too wide, and the spread between the three categories we track came in above the 3 Bcf watermark. So something is amiss." John Sodergreen, EMD editor estimates a 90 Bcf build.
Traders aren't looking for prices to move higher once the number comes out. "We are hearing a 90 Bcf build for Thursday's number, and I think once the number comes out the market gets flushed to the downside," said a New York floor trader following Wednesday's close. I don't see the market getting above $2.70 near term, and on the downside I think we are at $2.38 to $2.40.
"Maybe if we get a crazy number you would get a chance to sell it at $2.70 to $2.75, but I think after Thursday we'll be trading in the low $2.50s again."
In overnight Globex trading June crude oil added 45 cents to $59.03/bbl and June RBOB gasoline gained a penny to $2.0184/gal.