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Bulls Unfazed By Record Inventory Build; Expiring December Adds 2 Cents

Natural gas futures staged a counterintuitive rally after the Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported a storage build on Wednesday that was slightly larger than what traders were expecting.

Utilizing its new five-region format, the EIA reported a 9 Bcf injection in its 10:30 a.m. EDT release. The addition put inventories at a new record level of 4,009 Bcf and surpassed the previous record set last week at 4,000 Bcf. Despite traders being unaccustomed to a storage build this late in November, the expiring December futures rose to a high of $2.235, and by 10:45 a.m. December was trading at $2.21, up 2.1 cents from Tuesday's settlement.

Prior to the release of the data, analysts' estimates were well dispersed. IAF Advisors was looking for an increase of 10 Bcf and a Reuters poll of 18 traders and analysts showed a range from -4 Bcf to 11 Bcf, with an average 5 Bcf expectation. Ritterbusch and Associates calculated a 2 Bcf withdrawal.

Genscape Inc., a Louisville, KY-based industry consultant with access to a wide range of both power and gas data nailed the report with a 9 Bcf estimate.

"I'm not sure why that would be, but we actually rallied off the number. Traders were expecting a 5 Bcf build," said a New York floor trader. “I think people had [December] positions they wanted to settle up and did so regardless of the number."

"While the 9 Bcf net injection was slightly above the consensus for a 5-7 Bcf gain, this was not a material miss. Overall, we don't see this number as changing anyone's view of the intermediate-term prospects, with the upside still limited by a lack of intense cold," said Tim Evans of Citi Futures Perspective.

The new five-region format is designed to further enhance market transparency and acknowledge a new market configuration featuring the a newly formatted East Region along with four others (see Daily GPISept. 30).

Inventories now stand at 4,009 Bcf and are 554 Bcf greater than last year and 252 Bcf more than the five-year average.

In the East Region, 1 Bcf was injected, and the Midwest Region saw inventories increase by 3 Bcf. Stocks in the Mountain Producing Region were unchanged, and the Pacific Region was also flat. The South Central Region, closely similar to the former Producing Region, added 5 Bcf.

Salt cavern storage was up 5 Bcf at 382 Bcf, while the non-salt cavern figure was unchanged at 970 Bcf.

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