June natural gas was set to open Thursday about 1.8 cents lower at around $2.719/MMBtu, with small adjustments in the overnight weather data leaving the market to turn its attention to the upcoming release of weekly government storage data.
Bespoke Weather Services said forecasts “remained relatively unchanged” overnight save for “slightly warmer trends” in the medium-range outlook.
“June natural gas prices are ticking lower this morning ahead of what is expected to be a rather bearish” Energy Information Administration (EIA) storage report. “Weather is virtually unchanged, meaning we are not expecting much weather-driven price action today,” Bespoke said. “Rather, we are looking for a very loose plus-94 Bcf print from the EIA, which would temporarily cap prices in a market that has seen significant prompt support as of late.
“Current weather forecasts are still decently supportive, and data has begun to gradually tighten at these lower price levels, but looseness last week should be reflected in a large storage build announced today and potentially again next week.”
Estimates for the 10:30 a.m. ET EIA report show the market expecting a larger-than-average injection into Lower 48 gas stocks approaching triple digits for the week ending May 4.
A Reuters survey of traders and analysts on average predicted a 91 Bcf build, with responses ranging from 75 Bcf to 114 Bcf. A Bloomberg survey produced a median 90 Bcf injection, with a range of 62 Bcf to 114 Bcf. IAF Advisors analyst Kyle Cooper called for a 96 Bcf build, while Intercontinental Exchange EIA storage futures settled Wednesday at an injection of 94 Bcf for the upcoming report.
Last year, EIA recorded a 49 Bcf injection for the period, and the five-year average for the week is a build of 75 Bcf.
Meanwhile, forecaster Radiant Solutions said Wednesday warm temperatures put May on pace for a record-low total of gas-weighted heating degree days (HDD) going back to 1950. If the current pace continues, May would produce about 70% of the current record low set in 2012, according to the firm.
With some unusually warm temperatures in the northern United States and in the East, combined with some record heat in the Southwest, May is also on pace to finish in the Top 5 for total population-weighted cooling degree days going back to 1950, according to the firm.
“The next couple of weeks will offer some opportunities for variability,” Radiant lead meteorologist Brad Harvey said. “That said, the weak La Nina hangover will be the main culprit in keeping conditions warmer than normal across most of the U.S.”
The firm noted that the 10 warmest months of May on record in terms of gas-weighted HDDs showed no historical correlation with summer temperatures for those years. “However, we do expect that some of the atmospheric and oceanic signals that are driving this May warmth will continue to be driving factors of a hotter than normal summer season,” Radiant said.
June crude oil was set to open about 43 cents higher at around $71.57/bbl, while June RBOB gasoline was trading about 1.2 cents higher at around $2.1789/gal.