The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported a highball 33 Bcf injection into storage inventories for the week ending July 31, prompting a retreat in the gains that natural gas futures mounted early Thursday.
The EIA figure was far below last year’s 58 Bcf but on target with the five-year average. The 33 Bcf also was at the top of analysts’ expectations of build between 28 Bcf and 33 Bcf.
Ahead of the storage report, the average results of a Bloomberg survey pointed to inventories growing by 30 Bcf, as did a Reuters survey. NGI also projected a 30 Bcf build, while a Wall Street Journal poll averaged slightly higher at 31 Bcf.
Price action following the EIA report was swift. In the minutes leading up to the report, the September Nymex was trading at $2.245, up 5.4 cents from Wednesday’s close. Earlier, it had soared as high as $2.284. As the print crossed trading desks, the prompt month slipped to $2.225, but it then bounced around as traders tried to digest the data.
“Bulls putting up a fight at the moment but resistance around $2.247 holding,” said analyst Stephen Schork on The Desk’s online energy platform Enelyst.
By 11 a.m. ET, September futures were trading at $2.237, up 4.6 cents.
Huntsville Utilities gas scheduler Donnie Sharp said with prices at the top of the Bollinger band, the market needed a “pause and reflection” after the quick rise. “The pause could be quick… could last a few days.”
Looking ahead to next week’s EIA report, analysts expect a heftier build of about 50 Bcf, which Schork said would put the end-of-season figure at or above the top of the seasonally adjusted range. “That is not a bullish thing.”
However, Bespoke Weather Services chief meteorologist Brian Lovern said October inventories of around 4.0 Tcf aren’t exactly bearish either, especially with production expected to decline in the coming months and export demand likely to gain momentum.
Broken down by region, the Midwest led with a 15 Bcf injection into stocks, while the East came in with the second-highest build of 12 Bcf, according to EIA. Mountain inventories rose by 6 Bcf, and the Pacific withdrew 2 Bcf. The South Central reported a net injection of 3 Bcf, but salt facilities fell by 3 Bcf while nonsalts added 6 Bcf.
Total working gas in storage as of July 31 stood at 3,274 Bcf, 601 Bcf higher than last year and 429 Bcf above the five-year average, EIA said.
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