The Energy Information Administration (EIA) Thursday reported a 201 Bcf weekly withdrawal from U.S. natural gas stocks, to the higher side of expectations, but a futures market already depressed by mild winter weather reacted with disappointment.
The 201 Bcf withdrawal, recorded for the week ended Jan. 24, compares with a 171 Bcf withdrawal recorded in the year-ago period and a five-year average pull of 143 Bcf. The number also comes in slightly above consensus, with major surveys pointing to a decrease of around 195-197 Bcf.
In the lead-up to the report, the March Nymex contract was trading around $1.849-1.859/MMBtu. As the report crossed trading screens at 10:30 a.m. ET, the front month dropped a few cents to trade between $1.833-1.844.
By 11 a.m. ET, March was trading around $1.834, off 3.1 cents from Wednesday’s settle and down a couple pennies from the pre-report trade.
A Bloomberg survey Wednesday had produced a median prediction for a 197 Bcf withdrawal. Responses to a Wall Street Journal survey had averaged minus 195 Bcf, while a Reuters survey had also landed on a 195 Bcf pull. Predictions had ranged from minus 179 Bcf to minus 216 Bcf. NGI’s model had predicted a 210 Bcf withdrawal.
With this week’s print potentially the largest of the withdrawal season, perhaps bulls had been hoping for a more robust number from EIA.
Shortly after EIA’s print came out, Enelyst managing director Het Shah wrote during a live discussion on the energy chat platform that this week’s report offered “no real surprises.”
The Desk’s John Sodergreen saw it as a “big number” under the circumstances, with the 201 Bcf pull occurring “despite low demand across the globe, weak prices and no weather anywhere.”
Total Lower 48 working gas in underground storage stood at 2,746 Bcf as of Jan. 24, 524 Bcf (23.6%) higher than last year and 193 Bcf (7.6%) higher than the five-year average, according to EIA.
By region, the South Central posted the largest weekly withdrawal at 70 Bcf, including 31 Bcf pulled from salt stocks and 39 Bcf from nonsalt. The East withdrew 58 Bcf on the week, while 54 Bcf was pulled in the Midwest. The Pacific recorded a 10 Bcf weekly withdrawal, while 8 Bcf was withdrawn in the Mountain region, according to EIA.