Coming off the largest decline of the year, natural gas futures prices bounced early Friday as overnight long-range weather models shifted a little hotter. Perhaps in a sign that Thursday’s sell-off also was a bit overdone, the July Nymex gas futures contract was trading 2 cents higher at $2.345 at 8:45 a.m. ET.
The most recent weather models showed a weak trough developing in the West in the 11- to 15-day time period, while a downstream hotter ridge evolves farther East, which is similar to what occurred in the second half of May, according to Bespoke Weather Services. As in May, the best chance of above-normal heat in the coming weather pattern should be in the southern half of the United States and possibly into the Mid-Atlantic at times. Storminess is forecast to continue in the Midwest, limiting heat opportunities there.
“We also saw a hotter shift in the European weeklies, hinting at hotter chances in the eastern half of the nation into the first half of July,” Bespoke chief meteorologist Brian Lovern. “We aren’t ready to go that far, but do think the slightly hotter-than-normal pattern can hang on into the very beginning of July, given the look of the day 15 pattern.”
Overall, the data was seen adding back demand compared to Thursday’s data, including the European model, which added 7 total degree days, although still not nearly as hot as the Global Forecast System (GFS) model, according to NatGasWeather.
“It’s possible it’s enough of a hotter trend for the markets to want a few cents back, although the markets would likely prefer to see the European model trend further hotter to better match the GFS if they are to believe it.”
Friday’s early rebound also could be an indication that Thursday’s sell-off, after a somewhat bullish storage report, was a bit of an overreaction. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported a 102 Bcf injection into storage inventories for the week ending June 7. While larger than both last year’s build and the five-year average injection, the reported build was on the lower end of expectations and was the tightest stat of this injection season so far, according to Genscape Inc.
Compared to degree days and normal seasonality, the 102 Bcf injection is about 0.6 Bcf/d loose versus the five-year average, which the firm viewed as close to neutral. The stock gain pushed Lower 48 inventories to 2,088 Bcf, enabling the year/year surplus to grow to 189 Bcf while closing the current inventory deficit to the five-year average to 230 Bcf.
Meanwhile, crude oil futures retreated from Thursday’s more than $1/bbl spike in response to a reported attack on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman. Given the risk that attacks will mount, Thursday’s price gain remained a surprisingly mild response, according to EBW Analytics. “The possibility that oil prices will rise $20 or more sometime this summer should not be ruled out.”
The firm noted that disruptions in the Persian Gulf do not only affect the oil market. Qatar remains the largest liquefied natural gas (LNG) producer in the world, accounting for 23% of global supply, all of which is shipped through the Strait of Hormuz. “If traffic through the Strait is shut down for even a week or two or slowed down for an extended period, demand for LNG from other sources will skyrocket,” EBW said.
High oil prices, if they occur, will also reduce utilization of oil-fired plants around the world, further increasing demand for LNG. This should increase the odds that U.S. liquefaction plants will run flat out, potentially for much of next year, according to EBW.
“In an increasingly integrated global market, prices for energy resources are increasingly linked. Tensions in the Gulf have the potential to disrupt energy markets -- and the global market -- far more broadly than the current reaction suggests.”
However, Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Associates Inc. said it’s been one (or maybe two) oil market cycles since the market has seen a (sustained) geopolitical risk premium place an effective floor under oil prices, and the firm is not entirely convinced that Thursday’s oil price bounce “is of the sustainable variety given investor anxiety on the global oil demand side of the equation.”
Crude oil futures were trading at $52.18, down 10 cents, while RBOB gasoline futures were trading nearly a penny higher at $1.728/gal.