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Analysts Fret Over Storage Estimate Misfire; August Called Flat

August natural gas is expected to open unchanged Thursday morning at $2.92 as traders look for a government report that is expected to show additions to inventory well above historical norms. Overnight oil markets rose.

Just as last week's storage build at 91 Bcf caught a lot of analysts short by about 5 Bcf, this week's report is causing some head-scratching as well. John Sodergreen, editor of Energy Metro Desk, said, "Last week we noted that the spread between the three categories we track [banks, individuals and surveys] was only 1.4 Bcf, so, no indication of a surprise. This week it's elevated a bit to 2.3, but still below the 3 Bcf threshold. By rights, we shouldn't see a surprise this week, but history is at odds with that point.

"Bentek tells us a high-side risk is on the table. Of 36 forecasts this week, almost half offered forecasts above our consensus of 97. Though our editor is highish this week at 99, confidence is middling. Heads called a build over 95 Bcf, tails said under 95; heads had it. And the accumulated CDD tally of course."

Bentek also noted higher production and less power demand. "The U.S. as a whole saw lower demand and power burn fell to an average of 29.3 Bcf/d during the week, which marks the first week since early June that power burn demand has averaged below 30 Bcf/d," the company said in a report.

Last year 105 Bcf was injected and the five-year pace stands at 71 Bcf. Analysts at IAF Advisors calculate a 96 Bcf increase and ICAP Energy expects a 90 Bcf build. A Reuters survey of 27 traders and analysts revealed an average 95 Bcf with a range of 84 Bcf to 107 Bcf.

Near-term weather forecasts still continue to trend warmer. WSI Corp. in its morning six- to 10-day forecast said, "[Thursday's] six-10 day period forecast is a little warmer than yesterday's forecast over the south-central and eastern U.S. The West and Northern Plains are cooler. As a result, PWCDDs are up another 1.9 to 63.1 for the CONUS. Forecast confidence levels is average today as medium-range models are in reasonably good agreement. Uncertainty with tropical activity over the Pacific Basins still hampers confidence levels a bit.

"There aren't many upside risks to the forecast today. Most of the heat over the southern U.S. is at the top of the model suite,so the risk is not quite as hot. The West, especially the Pacific Northwest and the Northeast have a risk to the cooler side."

In overnight Globex trading August crude oil added 29 cents to $51.70/bbl and August RBOB gasoline rose 3 cents to $1.8916/gal.

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