Following the Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) announcement of a 28 Bcf build for the week ending April 16, the Nymex May natural gas futures contract immediately probed lower, reaching $5.55 just before 11 a.m. EDT, before rebounding higher to close the session at $5.623, up 4.1 cents on the day.
A number of analysts said natural gas futures were kept up by sympathy with crude, which was affected by the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) announcement Thursday to drop a proposal to temporarily ease sulfur air pollution rules for gasoline that would have allowed more imports to supply the United States. Following the announcement, June Nymex crude futures settled at $36.71, up 98 cents on the day.
“The [natural gas futures] market went up and down a little bit, and it probably would have rolled over and died except for the fact that crude oil took off like a bat out of hell on the EPA news,” said Tom Saal of Commercial Brokerage in Miami. “With that large of a move with crude oil and other products, you would of thought that gas would have taken off with it, but it didn’t.”
With the 28 Bcf build, working gas in storage was 1,077 Bcf as of April 16, according to EIA estimates. Stocks are 375 Bcf higher than last year at this time and 66 Bcf below the five-year average of 1,143 Bcf.
The build didn’t throw too many people off guard as the industry consensus was an injection of 20-30 Bcf. Despite being nailed by predictions, the number still had bullish undertones when compared to historical data. In addition to falling way short of last year’s injection of 60 Bcf for the week, Thursday’s storage number also fell short when compared to the 38 Bcf five-year average increase.
However, from a temperature-adjusted standpoint, Kyle Cooper of Citigroup said a twenty-something injection could go the other way. Prior to the storage release, Cooper said that while a 25 Bcf injection “might be construed as supportive, from a temperature adjusted standpoint, it is considered bearish.” He noted that average temperatures during the same week last year were nearly four degrees warmer.
“The last three years witnessed average temperatures over six degrees warmer during this time,” he said. “This report, if it kept with historical tendencies, should actually be much closer to 10 Bcf. Unless the injection is near 10 Bcf or below, it will be considered bearish on a temperature adjusted basis.”
Injections last week were led by the Producing region, with a 12 Bcf increase. Stocks in the Producing region are 19 Bcf above the five-year average of 404 Bcf. In the East region, stocks are 64 Bcf below the five-year average following net injections of 10 Bcf, while stocks in the West region are 21 Bcf below the five-year average after a net addition of 6 Bcf.
“At least the preliminary reaction to the 28 bcf injection to DOE storage for last week was a bit of a stand-off, and perhaps rightfully so,” said Tim Evans of IFR Energy Services. “We don’t want to read to much into what has been a subdued price reaction, but it seems that the market’s failure to turn supportive storage figures into an upside breakout leaves a somewhat bearish feeling in the market, with the warmer temperatures this week suggesting a larger build next time around.”
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