The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported a 73 Bcf withdrawal from natural gas storage inventories for the week ending Dec. 6, a figure that came in slightly smaller than market expectations.
The reported draw also came in a couple ticks below the year-ago withdrawal of 75 Bcf, but it was several Bcf above the 68 Bcf five-year average pull, according to EIA.
Ahead of the EIA report, surveys showed estimates ranging from a withdrawal as little as 62 Bcf to one as large as 83 Bcf. NGI expected to see a pull of 75 Bcf.
Traders appeared disappointed in the EIA data, with prices slipping immediately after the 10:30 a.m. ET report. The January Nymex gas futures contract was trading at $2.298, up 5.5 cents, about 10 minutes ahead of the report and then slipped a penny to $2.288 as the print hit the screen. By 11 a.m., the prompt month was at $2.277, just 3.4 cents higher than Wednesday’s regular session close.
Bespoke Weather Services, which had estimated an 80 Bcf withdrawal, said it is possible that it did not give the holiday weekend enough credit for limiting the draw, as the latest number included the weekend after Thanksgiving. If that is not the case, however, the balance tightening is not as notable as the firm’s data has been indicating.
“Next week’s number will tell us much more, clear of any holiday, etc.,” Bespoke chief meteorologist Brian Lovern said. “We currently have a 93 draw for next week, which still does look tighter, but if this winds up down into the 80s, that will confirm that balance tightening is overstated.”
Broken down by region, the Midwest posted the largest withdrawal of 27 Bcf, while the East drew down inventories by 24 Bcf, according to EIA. Pacific stocks were down by 10 Bcf, and the Mountain was down by 7 Bcf. The South Central region posted a net withdrawal of 6 Bcf, which included an 11 Bcf draw from nonsalt facilities and a 5 Bcf injection into salts.
Total working gas in storage as of Dec. 6 stood at 3,518 Bcf, 593 Bcf above last year at this time and 14 Bcf below the five-year average, according to EIA.