December natural gas futures were down 26.9 cents to $4.568/MMBtu shortly before 9 a.m. ET Thursday as forecasts trended warmer overnight, easing some of the fear in a market made volatile by concerns over lean storage inventories.
Bespoke Weather Services noted warmer trends in models overnight for next week, but the models also maintained a strong upstream negative North Atlantic Oscillation that could keep temperatures colder in the East toward the end of November.
“Overnight models finally moved back in a warmer direction after consistently grinding colder all week, with trends that favored a quicker ejection of the upper level low near New England early next week limiting the intensity of the next strong cold snap with a more significant period of moderation to follow,” Bespoke said. “...Our sentiment remains neutral as we see increasing bearish risk with gas prices above $4.50” going into Thursday’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) storage report.
“Yet we are still not ready to turn out sentiment bearish just yet,” given the long-range cold risks, “combined with bullish risks around today’s EIA print and balances that are still quite tight in this cold snap.”
EIA is set to release its weekly natural gas storage numbers at 10:30 a.m. ET Thursday, although it won’t be until next week’s report that the market gets an opportunity to assess the impact of this week’s wintry temperatures on inventories.
Estimates this week point to an above average build for the week ended Nov. 9. A Reuters survey showed traders and analysts expecting EIA to report a 33 Bcf injection, with estimates ranging from 20 Bcf to 47 Bcf. As of Wednesday afternoon, nine estimates submitted to Bloomberg showed a median 33 Bcf injection, with a range of 28 Bcf to 42 Bcf. Intercontinental Exchange EIA financial weekly index futures settled Wednesday at a build of 36 Bcf.
Last year, EIA recorded a withdrawal of 13 Bcf, and the five-year average is an injection of 19 Bcf.
EBW Analytics Group CEO Andy Weissman attributed the selling on Thursday morning to a combination of the warmer forecast trends and profit-taking ahead of the EIA report.
“With the coldest days of November in the rear-view mirror and cash market demand likely to soften over the Thanksgiving weekend, the most likely scenario is for prices to moderate during the period prior to the holiday,” Weissman said.
This could change if EIA reports a bullish storage surprise or if forecasts shift colder for early December, he said. “One or both of these developments could trigger a re-test of yesterday’s highs.”
December crude oil was trading 23 cents higher at $56.48/bbl shortly before 9 a.m. ET, while December RBOB gasoline was up fractionally to $1.5648/gal.