July natural gas futures were set to open a penny lower at $2.953 on Thursday as weather forecasts turned cooler for late next week.
Nymex July natural gas futures had slipped as low as $2.934 before the open as cooler trends for June 23-24 became more pronounced in overnight weather model runs, with a cool shot focused across the center of the country into the Ohio River Valley potentially pulling cooling demand below seasonal averages for a brief period.
“July natural gas prices dipped overnight again on these cooler forecasts but could not even reach $2.92 support before beginning to rally this morning,” Bespoke Weather Services said. Recent production declines due to later-season pipeline maintenance have helped keep prices bid, even as liquefied natural gas exports remain lower and weather trends less impressive, it said.
Meanwhile, the cool weather is expected to linger a few more days, with cooling demand then returning to slightly above average into the long-range, Bespoke said. Then, forecasters are calling for a trough forming across the Pacific Northwest and broad ridging across the East, leading to more bullish forecasts.
The next few trading sessions could test the direction in which natural gas prices head
this summer, EBW Analytics said. During the past week, expectations that cooling degree days (CDD) in June will match the previous all-time record have pushed prices higher, although not by as much as might have been expected.
As for Thursday, trading could hinge in part on the Energy Information Administration (EIA) weekly storage inventory report, which is set to be released at 10:30 a.m. ET.
The consensus forecast is for an injection of 88-89 Bcf. EBW favors a slightly smaller build, while Bespoke is projecting a 90 Bcf injection. Kyle Cooper of ION Energy Services expects a 93 Bcf build, and a Bloomberg survey had a range of 82-95 Bcf, with a median expectation of 90 Bcf. A Reuters poll also had a range of 82-95 Bcf, with a median expectation of 90 Bcf.
Last year, the EIA reported an injection of 82 Bcf, while the five-year average build stands at 91 Bcf. If estimates are correct, this week's build would boost stockpiles to 1.907 Tcf, the lowest for comparable weeks since 2014. That would be about 29% below the level in the same week a year ago and around 21% below the five-year average.
If there is a significant negative miss on the storage report, resistance at $2.99 could be retested, EBW said.
On the other hand, Bespoke sees risk for a slightly larger print that could temporarily depress prices.
“Support at $2.92 may very well be tested, with risk $2.87-2.90 support is tested as well” off any cooler weather guidance trends, Bespoke chief meteorologist Jacob Meisel said.
Given the production declines and expectations of forecasts by the end of June turning hotter, Bespoke sees any dip into support as a buying opportunity.
“Forecasts do not appear bullish enough to break prices above resistance, and burns are not too impressive, but short-term downside is unlikely sustained yet,” Meisel said.
Indeed, EBW said it could be several more days before prices begin to head lower as weather forecasts call for heat in the mid-section of the country to peak next week and then slowly fade. While temperatures in the eastern United States are likely to remain hotter than normal in early July, a return to more seasonal weather there is expected to follow. “If this verifies, gas futures should start to head lower next week,” EBW said.
Crude oil futures were trading 47 cents higher at $67.11, while RBOB gasoline futures were trading a penny lower at around $2.12.