Unmoved by some cooler overnight forecast trends, the natural gas futures market held steady early Thursday ahead of the latest Energy Information Administration (EIA) storage data. The May Nymex futures contract was trading about 0.6 cents lower at $2.671/MMBtu shortly after 8:30 a.m. ET.
This week’s EIA report could mark an early start to the injection season. Estimates point to an injection near 10 Bcf for the week ending March 29, versus last year’s 34 Bcf withdrawal and the five-year average draw of 23 Bcf.
A Bloomberg survey of 12 analysts had a wide range showing a 9 Bcf withdrawal up to a 16 Bcf build, with a median injection of 9 Bcf. A Reuters survey of 17 market participants had a range from a withdrawal of 2 Bcf to an injection of 16 Bcf, and a median build of 11 Bcf. Intercontinental Exchange EIA Financial Weekly Index futures settled Wednesday at a build of 19 Bcf. NGI’s model pegged the storage injection at 18 Bcf.
Last week, the EIA reported a 36 Bcf draw that was viewed by the market as likely the last storage withdrawal of the season. Inventories as of March 22 stood at 1,107 Bcf, 285 Bcf below last year and 551 Bcf below the five-year average, according to EIA.
“It was cooler than normal over the eastern third of the country, while warmer than normal over the western and central U.S., including Texas,” NatGasWeather said of this week’s EIA report period. “Our algorithm predicts a build of 17-18 Bcf, to the bearish side of expectations.”
Meanwhile, the forecaster noted an “interesting round of overnight weather data,” including the Global Forecast System (GFS) trending “notably cooler” to add 15 heating degree days to the outlook.
“The European model was already cooler than the GFS model and was a little warmer for next week but a little cooler April 14-18,” NatGasWeather said. “The net result was both models are now in close agreement. But with the GFS trending colder and the European model maintaining a cool central and northern U.S. April 11-17, the data could be interpreted by the natural gas markets as trending slightly cooler overnight.”
Along similar lines, Radiant Solutions made colder revisions to its six- to 10-day and 11-15 day forecasts.
The six- to 10-day outlook came in “cooler in Texas during the mid to late period, but little change is noted most elsewhere. The period continues to be one of transition, as aboves are widespread in coverage at the start of the period...However, low pressure early in the West will track eastward as the period progresses, leaving a trough in its wake. As a result, temperatures fall below normal from the West toward the Midwest during the mid to late period. Early aboves in the East also quickly wane but linger for most of the period in the Southeast.”
As for the 11-15 day period, Radiant’s latest forecast Thursday trended cooler compared to previous expectations, with changes focused from the West toward the Midwest. The pattern favors “slightly above normal temperatures in the South and below normal readings from the Interior West toward the Midwest.”
May crude oil futures were trading slightly higher early Thursday, up 20 cents to $62.66/bbl shortly after 8:30 a.m. ET. May RBOB gasoline was off fractionally to $1.9481/gal.