Continued meager weather-driven demand expectations kept the pressure on natural gas futures in early trading Thursday as the market awaited the latest round of weekly government inventory data. The January Nymex contract was off 9.8 cents to $4.160/MMBtu at around 8:50 a.m. ET.
Estimates ahead of the latest Energy Information Administration (EIA) storage report, scheduled for 10:30 a.m. ET, point to withdrawal in the upper 50s Bcf.
A Reuters poll of 16 analysts produced withdrawal estimates from 34 Bcf to 64 Bcf, with a median draw of 58 Bcf. The median of nine estimates submitted to Bloomberg as of early Thursday was a 58 Bcf withdrawal, with withdrawal predictions ranging from 49 Bcf to 63 Bcf. NGI modeled a 58 Bcf pull for the period, which covers net changes to U.S. gas stocks during the week ended Nov. 26.
A draw in line with expectations would compare with a 4 Bcf withdrawal in the year-earlier period and a 31 Bcf five-year average. Such a build would also represent a notable week/week increase in the withdrawal rate coming off the prior week’s 21 Bcf pull.
EBW Analytics Group senior analyst Eli Rubin noted that the current report includes the Thanksgiving holiday, which “enhances uncertainty” surrounding the print.
“After this week’s eye-catching price declines, however, a modest relief rally is likely near-term as shorts take profits,” Rubin said.
As for the latest supply and demand data points potentially impacting the market early Thursday, Rubin pointed to a dip in liquefied natural gas (LNG) feed gas flows, dropping 1.6 Bcf/d week/week to 10.7 Bcf/d.
“Production remains difficult to gauge amid early-month nomination volatility, but appears to have subsided from last week’s highs,” Rubin said.
Looking at the weather outlook, the updated forecast from Bespoke Weather Services early Thursday resulted in little day/day change in projected gas-weighted degree days (GWDD).
It’s “still a very warm forecast, with this month projected to rival December 2006 for the honor of being the second warmest December on record in terms of total GWDD (December 2015 is No. 1 and probably unreachable),” Bespoke told clients.
The $4.20-4.25 area where prices were trading early Thursday represents a key technical support level, which could explain why the market was “attempting to call a bottom here,” according to Bespoke.
“It is possible we hold this level for a bit, but, given this weather pattern, which looks stable enough to last at least beyond day 15 before any change, we feel this support level likely gives way,” the firm said.
January crude oil futures were down 53 cents to $65.04/bbl at around 8:50 a.m. ET.
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