Coming off of Wednesday’s decline on a round of profit taking, the July natural gas futures contract on Thursday got most of it back as the prompt-month contract gained 18.4 cents to finish at $5.162.
The natural gas futures market received “neutral” to “mildly supportive” news Thursday morning after the Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported that 87 Bcf was injected into underground storage for the week ending June 11. However, July natural futures values were on a roller-coaster ride for much of the day.
Just prior to the 10:30 a.m. EDT report, the July contract was trading at $5.140, but dropped to a low of $5.026 in the minutes that immediately followed the fresh inventory data. After pushing back up to $5.178, the prompt-month contract crashed to a low of $4.980 just after 11 a.m. EDT before rallying one more time.
“The 87 Bcf in net injections for last week was just below the midpoint on consensus expectations, a mildly supportive outcome,” said Tim Evans, an analyst with Citi Futures Perspective in New York. “It was just above the 84 Bcf five-year average for the date. Overall, a relatively neutral result.”
Heading into the report, Evans had been eyeing an 82 Bcf injection, while Bentek Energy’s flow model was projecting an 81 Bcf injection. However, a Reuters survey of industry players had been looking for an 89 Bcf build. The actual 87 Bcf build was much smaller than last year’s 113 Bcf build for the similar week.
As of June 11 working gas in storage stood at 2,543 Bcf, according to EIA estimates. Inventories were reduced to just 2 Bcf higher than last year at this time, but the year-on-five-year-average surplus expanded a tad to 313 Bcf.
For the week, the East Region injected 52 Bcf while the Producing and West regions added 23 Bcf and 12 Bcf, respectively.
Credit Suisse analyst Teri Viswanath said that while some gas demand is returning, the economy still has a long way to go. Commenting on the U.S. industrial production estimates for May released by the Federal Reserve Wednesday, Viswanath noted that the report showed that total production rose by 1.2% year-over-year, the largest gain since last August and much above the median expectation of 0.9%.
“Overall, the gas-intensive industries continued to show signs of improvement, with the annual gains in the primary metals segment leading the way,” she said. “However, we continue to emphasize the theme of a ‘reset’ rather than full recovery for industrial gas demand this year. We note that the annual growth in the chemical sector has seemingly slowed during April and May. Further, petroleum refining only turned positive on the year beginning in March.”
Following Wednesday’s 21.1-cent pullback, most market watchers were still of the opinion that the bulls were in control. “A one-day pullback never constitutes a trend reversal even if the reversal is from key resistance,” said Brian LaRose, an analyst with United-ICAP. He added that prices must make a significant decline in order to demonstrate that the uptrend is over. “To suggest $5.196 marked the end of this advance, a decisive close below $4.591 (50% of $3.986-5.196) is necessary. Fail to get below this level and new highs would still be possible. Successfully break through $4.591 and the next challenge for the bears will be $4.106-4015. LaRose places near-term resistance at $5.23.
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