Despite trading in a 15-cent range Wednesday, May natural gas futures ended the day up only 2.9 cents at $5.582 as focus turned to the Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) gas storage report, which is scheduled to be released at its regular time Thursday morning.

After taking its lead largely from the crude futures market over the past two weeks, natural gas went its own way Wednesday. While gas posted a small gain, the Nymex June crude futures contract — trading as the new front month — fell 77 cents to close at $35.73/bbl.

“As if to further reject its on-again-off-again correlation with the petroleum complex, natural gas futures took a swing to the upside today in spite of the slippage in crude and heating oil,” said Tim Evans of IFR Energy Services. “This further reinforces the idea that natural gas may have now fallen to a level where it is a better fundamental value.

“The bounce in May natural gas stalled at $5.65, confirming minor resistance forecast for that level and suggesting that it may be a valid short-term pivot going forward. Past that obstacle, we see the shelf of highs from last week at $5.78-5.801 as the next decision point, with a rally beyond there setting off a run for the $6.03 peak from April 12 or higher.”

Evans said that while $5.65 caps the market, the recent $5.46-5.49 lows still appear to be vulnerable. He noted that the $5.414 uptrend support or even the $5.34 low from March 25 could become targets.

Kyle Cooper of Citigroup is looking for a storage injection in Thursday’s report of 20-30 Bcf, while Evans is calling for a 50-60 Bcf injection. Industry consensus falls within the 20-30 Bcf range.

In addition to being stacked up against last year’s injection of 60 Bcf for the week, Thursday’s storage number will also be compared to the 38 Bcf five-year average increase.

“Once again, uncertainty abounds as the various temperature models indicate a wide range, while pipeline data would suggest an even larger build,” Cooper said.

Adding to his sizeable build prediction, Evans said he also expects the large injection trend to spread into next week’s report for the week ending April 23. “The current warmer-than-normal temperatures in key heating markets also suggest another round of bearish storage figures next week,” he said. “However, the near-term weather outlook now looks somewhat more balanced.”

According to the EIA, working gas in storage as of April 9 stood at 1,049 Bcf. The government agency noted that stocks are 407 Bcf higher than last year at this time and 57 Bcf below the five-year average of 1,106 Bcf, the smallest deficit since the shortfall first emerged in the data from Feb. 6.

The 15 Bcf injection for the week ended April 9 was 5 Bcf higher than the average of industry expectations. The build exceeded the five-year average injection for the week of 9 Bcf and stood in complete contrast to last year’s 46 Bcf withdrawal.

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