May natural gas was set to open Thursday about 1.5 cents lower at around $2.703 as the market turned its attention to the release of weekly government storage data expected to show a much lighter withdrawal versus the prior week.
Estimates for Thursday’s 10:30 a.m. ET Energy Information Administration (EIA) storage report -- covering the last full week of the official withdrawal season -- point to a pull in line with the five-year average.
The median taken from a Bloomberg survey showed traders and analysts expecting a 26 Bcf withdrawal for the week ending March 30, with responses ranging from 22 Bcf to 39 Bcf. A Reuters survey of 23 participants settled on a median 26 Bcf draw with a range of 19 Bcf to 35 Bcf.
Last year, 4 Bcf was withdrawn, while the five-year average is a withdrawal of 28 Bcf, according to EIA data.
IAF Advisors analyst Kyle Cooper called for a withdrawal of 23 Bcf, in line with Intercontinental Exchange EIA storage futures, which settled Wednesday at a withdrawal of 23 Bcf. OPIS by IHS Markit said it expects a withdrawal of 27 Bcf.
Last week, EIA reported a 63 Bcf withdrawal for the week ended March 23.
With cold weather likely stretching withdrawals into April, injection season could get off to a slow start, even as prices reflect the market’s assumption that surging production will make up for the current year-on-five-year deficit, INTL FCStone Financial Inc. Senior Vice President Tom Saal told NGI Wednesday.
“Generally you have seven months of injections,” Saal said. “We’re in the first month right now. We’re going to have a withdrawal Thursday and maybe have one next week too, and we may have another one the week after that depending on if cold sticks around, so the month of April is not starting out too well” in terms of demonstrating “storage is going to be easy to fill up this summer.”
Meanwhile, Radiant Solutions said Thursday in its six- to 10-day (April 10-14) outlook that “forecast changes are fairly small from a national perspective, with cooler adjustments made in the mid- to late-period in the Southwest. The East, however, has warmer changes in the second half, when above and much above normal temperatures are forecast to precede lower pressure tracking toward the region.”
In the 11-15 day (April 15-19) period, Radiant said, “Similar pattern themes as in the previous outlook remain in the forecast Thursday, with any adjustments being cooler early in Central where the latter stages have small warmer leans versus yesterday. Variability has temperatures averaging the period within the normal category along the East Coast where aboves early on give way to near to slightly below normal temperatures at mid-period.”
May crude oil was set to open about 12 cents lower at around $63.25/bbl, while May RBOB gasoline was trading fractionally lower at around $1.9692/gal.