June natural gas is expected to open a penny higher Thursday morning at $2.01 as traders consider whether supply and demand show any signs of realigning, and focus on weekly government storage figures. Overnight oil markets were mixed.
With shoulder season weather little of a market-driver, analysts will be turning to weekly storage figures to see if the much heralded rebalancing of the market is in fact in place. At present, indications are that production remains robust. In its Monthly Natural Gas Production Report the Energy Information Administration reported gross withdrawals at 92.02 Bcf/d, including Alaska, for February. That was up from 91.07 Bcf/d in January.
For Thursday's storage report, expectations are for an injection short of historical averages. Last year, 98 Bcf was injected, and the five-year pace stands at 91 Bcf. For the week ended May 13 the estimates are coming in at the upper 70 Bcf area. IAF Advisors calculates an increase of 75 Bcf, and ICAP Energy is looking for 79 Bcf. A Reuters poll of 20 traders and analysts showed an average 78 Bcf with a range of 73 to 83 Bcf.
Wednesday's price action saw June futures settle at $2.001, the lowest in more than a month. "The decline seemed to have more to do with seasonal weakness in physical demand and an inability to hold the higher levels than any fresh fundamental development as the temperature forecast was little changed from Tuesday's outlook," said Tim Evans of Citi Futures Perspective.
"Expectations for Thursday's DOE storage report were not a factor in Wednesday's price decline either, with the major newswire survey's pegging the consensus at 78 Bcf in net injections, a supportive step down from the 91 Bcf five-year average for the week ended May 13."
Market bulls can take solace in that one line of thinking has current low prices prevailing only if weather conditions are benign. "In the event we have an ultra-mild summer, and we don't see much likelihood of that but you can't rule it out, and if in fact we have a winter next winter that is just as mild as the last winter, and we don't see much likelihood of that happening, prices will be relatively close to the present forward curve," EBW Analytics President Andy Weissman said Wednesday in a webinar. "In our view, that is the only scenario in which that would occur."
In overnight Globex trading June crude oil added 41 cents to $48.72/bbl and June RBOB gasoline shed 3 cents to $1.6185/gal.