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Forecasts Cool Ahead of Storage Data; August Called 2 Cents Higher

August natural gas is set to open 2 cents higher Thursday morning at $3.78 as traders hone their short-term trading algorithms awaiting the morning release of government storage figures that are expected to offer near-term trading opportunities. Overnight oil markets slipped.

Bears remain in the driver's seat, and some will no doubt be wondering if a repeat performance of last Thursday's 16 cent dive might be in the cards following the 10:30 a.m. EDT release of storage data. A week ago, August futures plunged below $4 following the release of storage data, well above market expectations. The reported storage build came in at 107 Bcf when most observers were expecting a figure closer to 100 Bcf.

Recent cool weather in eastern and Midwest markets has analysts looking for a build just about double the normal patterns for this time of year, thus setting up the possibility of another futures price plunge. Last year, 43 Bcf was injected, and the five-year average stands at 46 Bcf. Analysts at United ICAP expect an increase of 90 Bcf, and Kyle Cooper at IAF Advisors calculates a 93 Bcf build. A Reuters poll of 23 industry cognoscenti revealed an average 96 Bcf with a range of 89-106 Bcf.

Bentek Energy calculates a 91 Bcf increase and said, "Mild temperatures across the middle of the Lower 48 allowed for a continuation of strong storage injections from the previous week, especially in Bentek's sample of East Region fields, which posted a total sample injection above 38 Bcf on the week. Facilities in the Producing and West regions decreased their injections within Bentek's sample by a combined 6 Bcf as an uptick in power demand in the West Region by 0.5 Bcf/d cut into storage activity and prompted an increase in net flows from the Producing Region to the West. The increased net flows helped reduce total injections below triple digits on the week."

The hits just keep coming in regards to incursions of cool weather. Joe Bastardi of WeatherBELL Analytics says to look for another "major cool shot next week, rivaling other major cool shots (against deviations from normal) of the season." He added that the "ECMWF (European) Operational [is] predicting another freakish two- to three-day cool period in southern Plains [and] Mean trough backs west/south after that." Bastardi said there was "Excellent agreement with the JMA [Japan Meteorological Association]/ECMWF."

In overnight Globex trading September crude oil fell 29 cents to $102.83/bbl and September RBOB gasoline eased fractionally to $2.8387/gal.

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