Natural gas futures tumbled following the release of government storage figures that were greater than what the market was expecting.
The injection of 92 Bcf for the week ended Sept. 5 reported by the Energy Information Administration in its 10:30 a.m. EDT release was about 5 Bcf more than market surveys and independent analyst projections. October futures fell to a low of $3.822 soon after the number was released, and by 10:45 a.m. October was trading at $3.832, down 12.2 cents from Wednesday's settlement.
Prior to the release of the data, analysts were looking for a build of approximately 87 Bcf. A Reuters survey of 27 traders and analysts revealed an average increase of 82 Bcf with a range of 65-89 Bcf. IAF Advisors was looking for a build of 89 Bcf, and Bentek Energy's flow model anticipated an injection of 87 Bcf.
"We were looking for 82 Bcf, so this number was significantly higher, but we had also heard as high as 88 Bcf to 90 Bcf," said a New York floor trader. "We are still in the $3.75 to $4 trading range, and I think the market is a little more antsy to the upside. We'll have to see. These are significant builds."
Analysts are mulling whether the hefty build was due to the Labor Day holiday or underlying higher production. "The 92 Bcf net injection for last week was at the top end of the range of market expectations and 31 Bcf more than the five-year average for the date, a clearly bearish outcome," said Tim Evans of Citi Futures Perspective. "As it's unclear how much demand may have been lost due to the Labor Day holiday, it's hard to know how much the build represents a possible increase in underlying supply that would carry over into future flows."
Inventories now stand at 2,801 Bcf and are 443 Bcf less than last year and 463 Bcf below the five-year average. In the East Region 60 Bcf was injected, and the West Region saw inventories up by 12 Bcf. Inventories in the Producing Region rose by 20 Bcf.
The Producing region salt cavern storage figure added 5 Bcf from the previous week to 216 Bcf, while the non-salt cavern figure rose by 14 Bcf to 624 Bcf.