July natural gas prices were set to open 5.6 cents higher at $2.952 as the market anticipates another sub-100 Bcf storage injection once the Energy Information Administration (EIA) releases its weekly report later this morning for the week ending June 1.
The EIA storage report will reflect the Memorial Day holiday week, which typically corresponds with a strong storage injection. But market estimates are wide ranging, between 77 Bcf and 98 Bcf and fall short of the triple-digit injection some would expect from a holiday weekend.
INTL FCStone Financial Inc. Senior Vice President Tom Saal told NGI that the story is the Memorial Day weekend. “If we got over 100 Bcf, I wouldn’t be surprised. That weekend should produce a big number.” His official estimate, however, is for a 97 Bcf injection.
ION Energy’s Kyle Cooper is projecting a 97 Bcf injection, while a preliminary Bloomberg survey had a median estimate of an 89 Bcf build. A Reuters poll pointed to a 90 Bcf injection, and the Intercontinental Exchange EIA Financial Weekly Index settled Wednesday at an injection of 94 Bcf.
The reporting week period was a hot one from Texas to the Midwest, where 90s reached Chicago for several days and 100s in Texas for strong demand, according to NatGasWeather. Sub-tropical Storm Alberto, however, brought showers and cooling to the Southeast for light demand.
“There was also the Memorial Day holiday that eased demand, as well as the potential for last week’s EIA report having been a little too low and in need of a few Bcf higher correction. Thus, many ways this report comes in squirrely,” NatGasWeather said.
Last year, a build of 103 Bcf was reported by the EIA, and the five-year average build stands at 104 Bcf. There were 71 cooling degree days (CDD) last week compared with 44 CDDs at the same time last year and a 30-year normal of 42 CDDs. In the week ended May 25, 96 Bcf was added to storage.
At the 92 Bcf build that Bespoke Weather Services is expecting, the firm sees today’s EIA print as “quite loose and if anything slightly increasing downside risk,” although there is the potential for any print to be shaken off because of the holiday impact. Overall, its sentiment is neutral, as long-range heat risks gradually returning should help set a floor for prices even as the market does not seem tight.
“There are still short-term downside risks toward $2.82, but increasingly any dip to $2.82 is seen a buying opportunity,” Bespoke’s chief meteorologist said.
As for weather, there were only subtle changes in the overnight data, with Global Ensemble Forecast System guidance, if anything, warming a touch as European guidance cooled a touch, Bespoke said. “It is clear that models are generally locking onto a pattern that will have slightly more hot than cool risks though, even as it does not feature the more intense heat that was shown across guidance last week,” Meisel said.
The atmospheric base state is one that favors slightly above-average temperatures, with tropical forcing allowing enough upstream Pacific North American ridging to temporarily pull temperatures around to slightly below average even with limited cool air across North America.
Such a cooling trend is unlikely to remain, however, as most models, including climate models, now show a gradual warming trend into week 3. “This is a trend we see continuing, as the end of June does look to be warmer than mid-June although heat will still be limited overall,” Bespoke said.
July crude oil futures were set to open Thursday morning about 60 cents higher at $65.33/bbl, while July RBOB gasoline was trading about 2 cents higher at $2.07/gal.