Despite negative guidance from the prior-day screen, cash points for the most part Wednesday remained resilient with most spots picking up from a couple of pennies to just less than a dime.
The cash market shrugged off the fact that June futures dropped 3.9 cents on Tuesday and remained unimpressed with the record pace of filling storage this spring. Gains could continue Thursday as the June futures contract added 15.3 cents to close at $4.284 (see related story).
“Cash prices stayed strong on Wednesday, which was a little surprising considering Tuesday’s futures drop,” said a Northeast utility trader. “We’ve now strung three days together of higher cash averages and it could continue on Thursday thanks to the bullish run in June futures. I think the colder temps we’ve seen this week in a number of regions has awoken gas demand a bit. People were already looking to moderate spring and early summer temperatures, but Mother Nature had one more chill left.”
That said, the record storage refill pace shows no signs of waning. Going into Thursday morning’s storage report for the week ending May 7, most industry estimates are for the Energy Information Administration to reveal an injection right around 100 Bcf.
Citi Futures Perspective analyst Tim Evans is eyeing a 110 Bcf addition, while Bentek Energy’s flow model is targeting a 98 Bcf build, which would bring inventory levels to 2,093 Bcf. Bentek expects a 50 Bcf build in the East Region, a 35 Bcf addition in the Producing Region and a 13 Bcf injection in the West Region.
Bentek said it expects U.S. storage inventory levels to continue to set new record highs this week, noting that a 98 Bcf addition would bring “stocks 4% above the five-year high and 19% above the five-year average.”
The number revealed Thursday morning at 10:30 a.m. EDT will be compared to last year’s date-adjusted 93 Bcf build and the five-year average addition of 84 Bcf.
Evans said while some traders are viewing $4 as the new floor for prices, he believes that with storage refills continuing to run higher than the five-year average pace, $4 represents more of an equilibrium for prices.
“Prices may get a bit of help from the weather from time to time, and the warmer than normal temperatures in the second half of May could begin generating some air-conditioning demand, but we see no reliable indication of a sustained tightening of the overall supply/demand balance that would suggest a sustained trend higher,” Evans said.
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