Natural gas futures bulls and bears were equally unimpressed Thursday morning following news that a slightly-less-than-expected 56 Bcf was deposited in underground storage for the week ending May 6.
In the minutes leading up to the Energy Information Administration's (EIA) 10:30 a.m. EDT report, June natural gas futures was trading around $2.168. Immediately after the report’s release, traders weren't quite sure what to make of the number as the front-month contract oscillated between $2.160 and $2.185. As of 11 a.m., June futures were trading at $2.166, down seven-tenths of a penny from Wednesday's regular session close.
The actual 56 Bcf build was bullish when compared to historical figures as well as industry expectations. It was well below last year's 101 Bcf build and the five-year average of 79 Bcf. Heading into the report, a Reuters survey of industry experts produced a 50-65 Bcf injection estimate with a consensus expectation of a 58 Bcf build, while a Bloomberg survey extended the upside range with injection predictions between 50 and 70 Bcf. Citi Futures Perspective was expecting a build of 60 Bcf, and ICAP Energy estimated an increase of 55 Bcf. IAF Advisors/ION Energy's Kyle Cooper was expecting a 57 Bcf build.
"The build of 56 Bcf was somewhat below the 58 Bcf consensus expectation and also supportive compared with the 79 Bcf five-year average increase," said Citi Futures Perspective Analyst Tim Evans. "With the current temperature forecast supporting at least a few more weeks of below-average injections, we also see a constructive context here, with the declining year-on-five-year average storage surplus tending to support prices over the intermediate term."
As of May 6, working gas in storage stood at 2,681 Bcf, according to EIA estimates. Stocks are now 816 Bcf higher than last year at this time and 813 Bcf above the five-year average of 1,868 Bcf. For the week, the South Central, Midwest and East regions injected 18 Bcf, 16 Bcf and 14 Bcf, respectively, while the Mountain and Pacific regions each chipped in 4 Bcf.