April natural gas was set to open Thursday about 2 cents lower at around $2.650, with the market turning its attention to the upcoming release of government storage data.
Estimates for Thursday’s 10:30 a.m. EDT Energy Information Administration (EIA) storage report have been pointing to a smaller withdrawal versus the five-year average but tighter than a year ago.
A Reuters survey of traders and analysts on average predicted a 77 Bcf withdrawal for the week ending Feb. 23, with responses ranging from -60 Bcf to -98 Bcf. Last year, 7 Bcf was withdrawn, while the five-year average withdrawal is -118 Bcf, according to EIA.
Kyle Cooper of ION Energy called for an 82 Bcf withdrawal, while PointLogic Energy on Tuesday predicted a withdrawal of 72 bcf based on “significantly warmer weather across the eastern half of the country.”
Stephen Smith Energy Associates said Tuesday it’s expecting a 74 Bcf withdrawal for the week ending Feb. 23. The Desk’s Early View survey, released last week, showed participants expecting on average a 70.9 Bcf withdrawal, with responses ranging from -60 Bcf to -86 Bcf.
Intercontinental Exchange futures for the upcoming report settled at -80 Bcf Tuesday.
“It was much warmer than normal over the South and East” during this week’s report period, “while cold over the West and Plains,” NatGasWeather.com said Thursday. “Our algorithm predicts a draw of 79 Bcf, potentially a touch bullish and lighter than the five-year average.
“Regarding overnight weather data, the Global Forecast System was notably milder, especially after March 10, while the European model was slightly colder, giving mixed signals.”
NatGasWeather said the next two weeks don’t appear to offer enough heating demand to impress, and that it expects the market to view the current weather outlook “as somewhat bearish.”
“We expect today’s trade to be quite telling as to whether prices find support for another leg higher, or finally give in to weather patterns that just don’t look quite cold enough, combined with Lower 48 production that’s back near record highs.”
The current deficits to year-ago and five-year inventories are “giving the market a little bit of support,” but strong production has limited the market’s concern, Price Futures Group Senior Analyst Phil Flynn told NGI.
“Maybe if we get a hot summer people start to get nervous, but we’re not getting the kind of bounce off that that you would think,” he said.