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Bears Take A Breather; June Called 3 Cents Higher

June natural gas is expected to open 3 cents higher Wednesday morning at $4.39 as traders mull a wide range of injection estimates for Thursday's storage report and the market stages a partial recovery from five straight days of selling. Overnight oil markets rose.

Analysts are stewing on what the long-term implication, if any, is of sequential above normal-expectation storage builds. "Although the updated weather forecast may have failed to insert a quick floor under the market, the larger issue remains the extent to which last week's third consecutive storage surprise exposed the vulnerability of the natural gas bulls," said Tim Evans of Citi Futures Perspective.

He thought Tuesday's decline might also have been "the market...bracing for Thursday's DOE storage report, with at least some estimates running in the 100-110 Bcf range, a step up from our model's projected 98 Bcf net injection, already more than the 83 Bcf five-year average for the date. In our view, a build of more than 100 Bcf would confirm that the background supply-demand balance for the natural gas market continues to weaken. Even without this further weakening, the near-term storage prospects look bearish enough."

If Evans projections are correct, the year-on-five-year deficit would decline to 903 Bcf by the end of May. At present, the deficit is 982 Bcf.

Storage is going full steam ahead in East Texas. Genscape reports that operators "have been injecting at a faster pace this spring. Storage injections averaged 1.0 Bcf/d in the past 30 days compared to 0.5 Bcf/d in the same period last year. Producing region storage inventory is currently 97 Bcf lower than last year for salt domes and 209 Bcf lower than last year for non-salt facilities. Balance of the summer of Henry Hub is currently trading over 13 cents discount to the winter strip," the firm said.

Physical markets in southern California may see some buying as temperatures in the area are expected to be more than 25 degrees above normal. According to the NGI Daily Spot Gas Index, SoCal Citygates traded at $4.86 and SoCal Border quotes came in at $4.62. AccuWeather.com predicted that the high in Burbank, CA, Wednesday would be identical to Tuesday's searing 102, light years ahead of its normal mid-May 76. Sacramento was forecast to see a high Wednesday of 95, down a touch from Tuesday's 97, but still well ahead of seasonal norms at 79.

In overnight Globex trading June crude oil rose 28 cents to $101.98/bbl and June RBOB gasoline added a penny and a half to $2.9318/gal.

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