With news of Russia’s attack on Ukraine roiling energy markets early Thursday, including sending West Texas Intermediate crude to around $100/bbl, natural gas futures were up sharply in early trading.
The expiring March contract was up 30.2 cents to $4.925/MMBtu at around 8:55 a.m. ET. April was up 33.0 cents to $4.923.
News reports Thursday morning of a Russian military attack on Ukraine raised the prospect of significant energy market disruptions, notably in the context of Europe’s reliance on Russian natural gas supplies.
“Contrary to earlier assumptions, Russia has launched a broad invasion of Ukraine,” analysts at Jefferies wrote in a note to clients early Thursday. “Oil and particularly gas prices will now remain sustainably high.”
The news coming out of Europe was overshadowing other factors influencing the natural gas market Thursday, according to Bespoke Weather Services.
“Price action right now in all markets is being driven almost solely by the escalating situation revolving around the Russia/Ukraine conflict,” Bespoke said. “…The timing just happens to fall on the day of the March contract’s expiration, as well, and it is impossible to say which way it moves today, in our view.
“For what it’s worth, production slid below 93 Bcf/d this morning with some late-season freeze-offs, but this should be brief,” the firm added.
Moving forward, returning production and milder weather-driven demand should put downward pressure on prices, but “jitters regarding the Europe situation” introduce uncertainty into the price outlook, Bespoke said.
While the Russia/Ukraine news dominated headlines, natural gas traders were also preparing to digest the latest round of government inventory data early Thursday. Surveys ahead of the Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) upcoming report, scheduled for 10:30 a.m. ET, pointed to a withdrawal in the neighborhood of 133-140 Bcf.
Reuters polled 16 analysts, whose estimates ranged from withdrawals of 112 Bcf to 199 Bcf, with a median estimate of 133 Bcf. Estimates submitted to a Wall Street Journal poll ranged from withdrawals of 114 Bcf to 199 Bcf, with an average estimate of minus-140 Bcf. The median of 13 estimates submitted to Bloomberg as of Wednesday, meanwhile, was a withdrawal of 126 Bcf. Responses to Bloomberg ranged from minus-116 Bcf to minus-149 Bcf.
NGI modeled a 121 Bcf draw for the report, which covers the week ending Feb. 18. EIA recorded a 324 Bcf withdrawal for the year-earlier period, while the five-year average is a 166 Bcf draw.
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