January natural gas futures were trading 14.0 cents lower at $4.559/MMBtu shortly before 9 a.m. ET Thursday, giving back some of the prior session’s gains, as the market turns its attention to the upcoming release of government storage data.
Estimates for this week’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) storage report, due at 10:30 a.m. ET, showed market participants expecting a larger-than-average withdrawal for the week ended Nov. 23.
A Reuters survey of traders and analysts showed respondents expecting an average 77 Bcf pull for the week, with a range of minus 62 Bcf to minus 105 Bcf. A Bloomberg survey Wednesday showed a median withdrawal of 82 Bcf, with predictions ranging from minus 60 Bcf to minus 88 Bcf. Intercontinental Exchange EIA financial weekly index futures settled Wednesday at a withdrawal of 68 Bcf.
“It was much colder than normal across the Northeast, while modestly colder elsewhere besides portions of the West and northern Plains” during this week’s report period, according to NatGasWeather. “Our analysis says to expect a slight bearish miss,” with a pull of around 67-68 Bcf, but the Thanksgiving holiday makes it more challenging to predict.
As for the overnight weather data, the forecaster said all data sets came in little changed or colder except for the Global Forecast System (GFS), which was slightly warmer.
“But since the European model was further colder trending overnight...this suggests the milder trending GFS could potentially be a fake-out unless it holds in its early morning and midday runs,” NatGasWeather said.
The forecaster said guidance still shows a milder break this weekend, followed by colder temperatures beginning Tuesday (Dec. 4-11), then another milder break for much of the country Dec. 12-14. Both the European and GFS continue to advertise some of the strongest cold shots of the season for the Dec. 4-11 pattern in terms of national heating degree days.
“Mild high pressure is still expected to gain coverage and strength Dec. 12-14 in all datasets, but with uncertainty over how long it will ultimately last before cold shots return,” NatGasWeather said. “We expect another volatile trading session where moves of 30 cents or more should be expected and where colder or warmer trends will be closely scrutinized.”
As for Wednesday’s price surge, which saw the December contract gain 45.3 cents into expiry, EBW Analytics Group CEO Andy Weissman said the rally is likely to prove temporary.
“These gains were partly due to a colder shift in the six- to 10-day forecast and pipeline scrape data showing a drop in daily production,” Weissman said. “The main driver, though, was the dynamics associated with close-out of the December contract, which led to frantic buying in the last half hour before final settlement.”
Meanwhile, the EIA storage report could have more impact than usual, according to Weissman. While “high-visibility surveys estimate a 73-77 Bcf draw, many top analysts are predicting draws as low as 60-67 Bcf, potentially adding to downward price pressure.”
January crude oil was trading 77 cents higher at $51.06/bbl shortly before 9 a.m. ET, while December RBOB gasoline was up about 2.1 cents to $1.4192/gal.