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March Natural Gas Called Near Even as Storage Report Seen Looser Versus Five-Year Average

March natural gas was set to open Thursday near even at around $2.651 as the market looked ahead to government storage data expected to show a triple-digit withdrawal that would be bearish versus recent norms.

The Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) 10:30 a.m. storage report is expected to show a larger withdrawal than a year ago, but looser versus the five-year average.

A Reuters survey of traders and analysts predicted on average a 120 Bcf withdrawal for the week ending Feb. 16, versus 92 Bcf withdrawn last year and a five-year average pull of 145 Bcf. Responses ranged from -105 Bcf to -129 Bcf. A Bloomberg survey showed a median -121 Bcf, with responses ranging from -116 Bcf to -131 Bcf.

Last week, EIA reported a 194 Bcf withdrawal for the week ending Feb. 9.

PointLogic Energy predicted a withdrawal of 120 Bcf, attributing the smaller withdrawal week/week “to warmer weather in the East and Midwest regions.

“...While the overall winter has been relatively close to normal, periods of extreme cold have forced heavier reliance on storage withdrawals,” the firm told clients this week. “PointLogic Energy/IHS Markit currently expects storage inventories to end March at approximately 1.4 Tcf, or 0.3 Tcf below the prior five-year average.”

Kyle Cooper of ION Energy predicted a 116 Bcf pull, while Intercontinental Exchange futures for Thursday’s storage report settled at -120 Bcf Tuesday after trading at -125 Bcf on Monday.

“We’re going to be below last year’s level by quite a bit, so that should create a little bit of anxiety because last year, the injections were below average,”  INTL FCStone Financial Inc. Senior Vice President Tom Saal toldNGI Wednesday.

As for the latest weather, Radiant Solutions said its 11-15 day outlook Thursday trended “slightly colder versus previous, with features associated with the negative North Atlantic Oscillation breaking down the Eastern Half ridge during the six-10 day and allowing for below normal temperatures to expand toward the Eastern Half in this period.

“Temperatures average in the below normal category in the Northwest, Rockies, Plains, Midwest and Southeast while the strength of the narby blocking high has temperatures being closer to normal in New England.”

April crude oil was set to open about 16 cents lower at around $61.52/bbl, while March RBOB gasoline was down about a penny to $1.7455/gal.

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