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Lean Build Expected, Yet May Called 2 Cents Lower

May natural gas is set to open 2 cents lower at $2.05 in spite of traders expecting a government report to show well below normal builds in inventory. Overnight oil markets rose.

May futures stumbled to a 2-cent loss Wednesday after posting a 60-day high at $2.137, and some traders are thinking the near-term lows are in. "We are still closing above the $2 range, which is a good sign," said a New York floor trader. "Anything under $2, in the $1.90s might be a good opportunity to get in. Let's see if this thing continues this way."

The trader said he was hearing estimates on either side of unchanged for Thursday's inventory report. Last year, a stout 82 Bcf was injected, and the five-year average is for a 46 Bcf increase. This week isn't expected to come close. United ICAP estimates a 4 Bcf build, and Ritterbusch and Associates is looking for a 6 Bcf increase. A Reuters poll of 21 traders and analysts revealed an average +4 Bcf with a range of a withdrawal of 3 Bcf to an injection of 16 Bcf.

Shoulder season storage is always difficult to forecast, yet observers aren't expecting any surprises in Thursday's report. John Sodergreen publisher of Energy Metro Desk said that "none of our usual indicators point to a 5 Bcf surprise out of EIA this week. Our survey range is an underwhelming 10 Bcf wide. The spread between the three categories we track is also relatively low, at 1.2 Bcf (if the spread was 3 Bcf or higher, it would signal a possible surprise)."

The EMD survey came in at a 4 Bcf increase yet its GWDD Model was higher at 8 Bcf. "May be a bumpy ride," he said.

This is likely to be the last of the thin builds for a while. The National Weather Service (NWS) forecasts well below normal heating requirements for the week ended April 23. NWS predicts New England will see just 89 HDDs, or 38 below normal, and New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania will have just 69 HDD, or 36 below its normal seasonal tally. The Midwest from Ohio to Wisconsin is anticipated to see just 45 HDD, or 62 below its seasonal tally.

In overnight Globex trading June crude oil rose 4 cents to $44.22/bbl and June RBOB gasoline rose a cent to $1.5356/gal.

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