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‘Bullish Surprise’ Following Lean NatGas Storage Build

August futures gained ground following a report by the Energy Information Administration (EIA) showing a natural gas storage injection that was less than what traders were expecting.

The EIA reported a storage injection of 28 Bcf for the week ending July 14, about 4 Bcf less than consensus estimates. When the number hit trading desks August futures rose to $3.114, but at 10:45 a.m. August was trading at $3.091, up 2.5 cents from Wednesday's settlement.

Before the report traders were looking for a storage build higher than the actual figures. Last year 38 Bcf was injected and the five-year average stands at 59 Bcf. Ritterbusch and Associates expected a 47 Bcf build. A Reuters survey of 23 traders and analysts showed an average 32 Bcf with a range of +21 Bcf to +47 Bcf.

"The market really isn't making a stab to get into the high 'teens and just seems to be hovering in a range," said a New York floor trader. "I don't think the number had much of an impact at all."

Tim Evans of Citi Futures Perspective called the report a "clear bullish surprise. The data also suggests some tightening of the background supply/demand balance implying ongoing support for prices."

The Wells Fargo Securities LLC’s analytical team called the report bullish and said it reflects a market undersupplied by at least 2 Bcf/d.

"Based on current weather forecasts as well as elevated power burn levels thus far in July (35.2 Bcf/d month-to-date (mtd) versus 34.9 Bcf/d mtd in July 2016), our model projects a 46 Bcf cumulative storage build over the next two weeks,” said Wells Fargo analysts. “This would be substantially below the five-year average of 86 Bcf and would reduce the storage surplus to just 106 Bcf by the end of July."

Inventories now stand at 2,973 Bcf and are 299 Bcf less than last year and 141 Bcf greater than the five-year average. In the East Region 21 Bcf was injected, and the Midwest Region saw inventories rise by 14 Bcf. Stocks in the Mountain Region were up by 1 Bcf and the Pacific Region was unchanged. The South Central Region fell by 8 Bcf.

Salt storage fell by 6 Bcf to 330 and non-salt decreased 1 Bcf to 816 Bcf.

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