With analysts expecting a larger-than-average injection from the latest weekly government storage report, data that could provide further indications of demand destruction from the Covid-19 outbreak, natural gas futures were trading sharply lower early Thursday. The May Nymex contract was off 9.3 cents to $1.759/MMBtu at around 8:40 a.m. ET.

Morning Markets Coverage

For today’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) report, scheduled for release at 10:30 a.m. ET, analysts have been predicting an injection between 9 Bcf and 33 Bcf.

A Wall Street Journal poll of 12 analysts showed estimates averaging at a 21 Bcf build. Respondents to a Bloomberg survey arrived at a similar range, with a median build of 24 Bcf. A Reuters survey also was looking for a 24 Bcf injection, with a 9 Bcf to 35 Bcf build range. NGI’s model estimated the injection at 37 Bcf.

These figures compare with a 25 Bcf increase in storage in the same week last year and the five-year average injection of 6 Bcf, according to EIA.

“It was warmer than normal from the Plains eastward, while cooler than normal over the West” during this week’s EIA report period, NatGasWeather said.

From a technical standpoint, prices fell back in Wednesday’s trading after the May contract failed to break through resistance at $1.90-1.92, observed EBW Analytics Group analysts.

“The move down was partly technically driven, reinforced by a milder weather forecast shift,” the EBW analysts said. “The main driver, though, was predictions by a number of analysts that EIA will report a large storage build today, adding to the evidence that, with much of the country shut down due to the coronavirus, demand for natural gas is plummeting.”

Meanwhile, the major weather models shifted warmer overnight, including a drop of 11 heating degree days from the European model, NatGasWeather said.

“Overall, the weather data remained quite cold” for later this week through April 19 “but was milder trending April 20-23,” which has this stretch of the pattern “back to being too mild,” according to the forecaster. “Also of important consideration, all U.S. natural gas markets will be closed tomorrow for the Good Friday Holiday, leaving considerable risk of a gap on the Sunday reopen.”

May crude oil futures were up $1.17 to $26.26/bbl at around 8:40 a.m. ET, while May RBOB gasoline was up about 2.2 cents to just under 70.0 cents/gal.