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Futures Free-Fall Below $4 Following Super-Sized Storage Build

Natural gas futures had the trajectory of a coyote falling off a cliff in a Saturday morning cartoon and posted a new six-month low following the release of government storage figures that were well on the high side of what the market was expecting.

After failing to register a triple-digit injection for the first time in two months in last week’s report for the week ending July 4, Thursday morning’s report for the week ending July 11 was firmly back on the bearish side of the ledger. The injection of 107 Bcf was about 7 Bcf higher than market surveys and independent analyst projections.

Shortly after the Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) 10:30 a.m. EDT release, August futures dropped below key support at $4 to a low of $3.956, and by 10:45 a.m. the contract had only recovered to $3.975, down 14.4 cents from Wednesday's settlement.

Prior to the release of the data, analysts were looking for a build of approximately 100 Bcf. A Reuters survey of 26 traders and analysts revealed an average increase of 98 Bcf with a range of 86 Bcf to 107 Bcf. IAF Advisors was looking for a build of 103 Bcf, and Bentek Energy anticipated an injection of 102 Bcf.

"We were looking for a 97 Bcf to 98 Bcf build, so this was a big surprise," said a New York floor trader. "From here you have to start looking at market support at $3.75. If the market settles below $4, that will also be big."

"The net injection of 107 Bcf was more than expected, implying a further weakening of the background supply-demand balance, presumably on a further increase in supply,” said Tim Evans of Citi Futures Perspective. “This has bearish implications for the forward data as well."

Inventories now stand at 2,129 Bcf and are 608 Bcf less than last year and 727 Bcf below the five-year average. In the East Region 65 Bcf was injected, and the West Region saw inventories up by 13 Bcf. Inventories in the Producing Region rose by 29 Bcf.

The Producing region salt cavern storage figure increased by 7 Bcf from the previous week to 201 Bcf, while the non-salt cavern figure rose by 20 Bcf to 525 Bcf.

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