After working down toward $4 in early Thursday trading, June natural gas futures were temporarily buoyed after the Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported that 76 Bcf was injected into underground storage for the week ending May 14. The prompt-month contract finished the day at $4.106, down 5.2 cents from Wednesday’s regular session close.

While the number had been largely anticipated by the industry, the report was undeniably bullish when held up to historical comparisons for the week.

Prior to the 10:30 a.m. EDT report, June futures were winding lower, reaching $4.051 in the minutes prior. However, immediately following the fresh data the prompt-month contract knee-jerked to a $4.040 low before springing back to $4.150. Approximately 10 minutes later after the dust had settled and traders had sorted the news, the market traded back down to $4.053 before popping up to $4.207 just before noon EDT. Traders weren’t done yet as futures declined one more time to the close.

Heading into the report, industry projections were mostly in the 70s Bcf injection camp with Bentek Energy’s flow model hitting the nail on the head with a 76 Bcf build prediction. A Reuters survey of 25 industry players produced a 68 Bcf to 98 Bcf range of injection expectations with the average build estimate coming in at 77 Bcf.

Citi Futures Perspective analyst Tim Evans, who had been expecting a 70 Bcf addition, called the report “neutral” and noted that while he expected the bulls to attempt to capitalize, he did not expect them to find much traction.

“The 76 Bcf build for last week was only very slightly below the 77-78 Bcf consensus expectation and so should be considered neutral in that regard,” Evans said. “The build was below the 93 Bcf five-year average for the date, however, and that could be the basis for a recovery attempt after Wednesday’s price drop. Overall, however, we expect the upside price reaction to be limited, as above average storage injections are forecast for the next round of data.”

In addition to being much smaller than the five-year average addition, the 76 Bcf build was also well below last year’s 101 Bcf build for the similar week.

As of May 14, working gas in storage stood at 2,165 Bcf, according to EIA estimates. Stocks are now 73 Bcf higher than last year at this time and 308 Bcf above the five-year average of 1,857 Bcf. For the week, the East Region led the charge by injecting 34 Bcf while the Producing and West regions added 27 Bcf and 15 Bcf, respectively.

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