With a potentially plump storage injection in the offing from this week’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) data, natural gas futures were trading lower early Thursday, eating into gains from the previous session. The June Nymex futures contract was off 2.2 cents to $2.598/MMBtu shortly after 8:30 a.m. ET.
Market observers are looking for what could be the first in a series of triple-digit shoulder season injections starting with today’s 10:30 a.m. ET EIA report, which covers the week ended April 26. A Bloomberg survey as of Wednesday showed a median 116 Bcf build, with responses ranging from a build of 95 Bcf up to 126 Bcf. A Reuters survey had a median build of 114 Bcf, with the same range of predictions from 95 Bcf to 126 Bcf.
IAF Advisors analyst Kyle Cooper called for a 119 Bcf build, while Intercontinental Exchange EIA Financial Weekly Index futures settled Wednesday at an injection of 118 Bcf. NGI’s model predicted a build of 105 Bcf.
A triple-digit injection would dwarf recent norms for this time of year. Last year, EIA recorded a 50 Bcf injection, and the five-year average is a build of 70 Bcf. Last week, EIA reported a 92 Bcf build that was hefty enough to flip stocks from a year/year deficit to a surplus.
The weather during this week’s EIA report period “was warmer than normal over much of the country besides slightly cool versus normal conditions from Texas to the Southeast, although for this time of the year this means comfortable and not too hot,” NatGasWeather said. “Our algorithm sees the build as bearish and printing near 123 Bcf.”
Looking ahead, the forecast remained “little changed” in the overnight weather data, with the pattern showing a “mix of light heating and cooling demand through mid-May, but still not strong enough to prevent larger than normal builds from continuing for at least the next four weeks,” the forecaster said. Even with additional hotter or cooler trends in the coming days, “it’s still going to be considered at least a somewhat bearish setup until more ominous heat builds across the South and East.”
Daily fundamentals data remains “generally supportive,” but balances weren’t looking quite as strong early Thursday as they had the day before, according to Bespoke Weather Services.
“Production was revised slightly higher yesterday, though still has not been able to get back to the highs,” the firm said. “Canadian imports ticked up some today as well. Burns, while impressive for early May, were revised down slightly overall.”
Readings showed liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports on the rise Thursday, approaching all-time highs, according to Bespoke.
“We feel today’s session can be choppy, as we have potential noise around the EIA number later on, as well as uncertainty around how the market will perceive the morning data,” Bespoke said. “With LNG exports up again, and still some solid southern weather demand tomorrow, cash prices could be rather firm again ahead of the EIA release, but we prefer to remain neutral for now as we wait for the smoke to clear.”
June crude oil futures were trading 97 cents lower at $62.63/bbl shortly after 8:30 a.m. ET, while June RBOB gasoline was down about 2.7 cents to $2.0377/gal.