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Weak NatGas Futures Decline Follows Stout Storage Build

Natural gas futures fell following the release of government inventory figures showing an increase in working gas storage greater than what the market was expecting.

For the week ending July 3, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported an injection of 91 Bcf in its 10:30 a.m. EDT release Thursday. August futures fell to a low of $2.644 after the number was released and by 10:45 EDT the contract was trading at $2.659, down 2.6 cents from Wednesday's settlement.

Prior to the release of the data analysts were looking for an increase in the mid-80 Bcf range. Industry consultant Bentek Energy utilizing its flow model calculated a build of 88 Bcf, and IAF Advisors was counting on a 84 Bcf increase. A Reuters poll of 23 traders and analysts showed an average 86 Bcf expectation with a range of a 79 Bcf to a 93 Bcf injection. The build came in just below last year's 94 Bcf injection for the week.

Traders were unimpressed with the move lower. "There's not a lot of conviction in the market's move. It's just drifting within its [established] trading range," said a New York floor trader.

When queried whether today's apparent lack of downside follow through to an otherwise bearish number offered a buying opportunity, the trader said "I think a little lower from here. The upper $2.50s to lower $2.60s. The problem is there is nothing fundamental on the horizon to change people's opinions."

Tim Evans of Citi Futures Perspective said the "91 Bcf build for last week was above the consensus estimate and also more than the 76 Bcf five-year average refill, and so moderately bearish in terms of its immediate price impact. This will be a test for the market, but we still expect prices to hold above the June and April lows, which may set up an eventual intermediate-term price recovery."

Inventories now stand at 2,668 Bcf and are 658 Bcf greater than last year and 45 Bcf more than the five-year average. In the East Region 69 Bcf were injected and the West Region saw inventories decrease by 1 Bcf. Stocks in the Producing Region rose by 23 Bcf.

The Producing region salt cavern storage figure was up 5 Bcf at 297 Bcf, while the non-salt cavern figure increased 18 Bcf to 753 Bcf.

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