After 12 straight days of losses, natural gas futures bounced back early Thursday as weather models shifted a bit colder for mid-October. With eyes on another 100 Bcf-plus storage injection later this morning, the Nymex November gas futures contract was trading 2.2 cents higher at $2.269 just before 8:30 a.m. ET.
Statistically, both the Global Forecast System and European models added 13-14 heating degree days (HDD) and cooling degree days (CDD) since 24 hours ago, according to NatGasWeather. “The coming pattern still wouldn’t be considered bullish, but after two straight days of adding demand,” the natural gas markets have taken notice.
Where the data has turned cooler is with a cool shot expected to track across the northern United States late next week through the following weekend, with overnight lows in the 30s and 40s becoming widespread across the Midwest and Northeast, NatGasWeather said. However, after this system exits, comfortable conditions are favored to return across most of the northern United States Oct. 15-18th, with HDD/CDD totals dropping below normal in a rather bearish set-up. “However, there’s potential for demand to be added for this period as well in time.”
Weather aside, Thursday’s price action could be heavily influenced by the latest government storage data. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) is set to release its weekly storage report at 10:30 a.m. ET, and analysts are calling for a second consecutive 100 Bcf-plus injection.
A Bloomberg survey of 12 analysts showed estimates ranging from 100 Bcf to 118 Bcf, with a median of 106 Bcf. A Wall Street Journal poll also had a median of 106 Bcf, with estimates ranging from 95 Bcf to 105 Bcf. Intercontinental Exchange Financial Futures settled Tuesday at a 110 Bcf build, while NGI modeled a 109 Bcf injection.
Last year, the EIA reported a 91 Bcf injection, and the five-year average stands at 83 Bcf.
Without sustained demand in the coming weeks, triple-digit injections could persist, and material HDD accumulation would be delayed until November, according to Mobius Risk Group. As a result, price elastic power demand and salt storage capacity holders would be relied upon to soak up excess supply.
Salt storage as of Sept. 20 was a modest 32 Bcf ahead of last year, which importantly marked a six-year low, Houston-based Mobius said. In order for salt storage to reach late 2016 highs, there would need to be 20 Bcf/week injected between now and the end of November. “For reference, this would equate to 80% of the peak weekly observation from the past nine years being replicated for 10 consecutive weeks.”
The EIA would likely need to report a less than 100 Bcf injection to generate a meaningful price rally, whereas anything near 115 Bcf would likely drive another leg lower, according to Mobius. “Salt storage has a reasonable likelihood of building more than 10 Bcf, and this would double the same week last year, but fall well short of the aforementioned 20 Bcf barometer by which congestion risk in salt storage should be measured.”
Furthermore, while it may not garner as much attention, the firm sees the possibility of East and Midwest regional inventories building 70 Bcf as more indicative of fundamental issues. “Such an injection would be 1 Bcf below the peak weekly observation from the past nine years,” Mobius said.
Crude oil futures were trading 20 cents lower at $52.44/bbl, while RBOB gasoline futures were trading about a half-cent higher at $1.550/gal.