Natural gas ends a shade up as trades ponders direction amid storage build
By Barani Krishnan
Natural gas futures returned to positive territory on Thursday, after a three-day rally that was disrupted in the previous session, as traders pondered about direction following a larger weekly storage build.
The most-active May gas contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange’s Henry Hub settled up 2.7 cents, or 1.2%, at $2.249 per mmBtu, or million metric British thermal units. It was down for most of the day, plumbing a session low of $2.143, before rebounding in late trade.
In Wednesday’s session, May gas settled down 6%, after a 16% rise over three prior days, on expectations for wintry-like conditions through early May — which weather forecasters eventually tamped down by citing warmer conditions.
The US Energy (NASDAQ:USEG) Information Administration, or EIA, reported on Thursday that utilities in the country injected 69 billion cubic feet of gas into storage in the latest week to April 14 after burning a much-less-anticipated volume of the fuel for heating due to mild weather.
“This storage injection is on the higher end for this time of year and is attributed to the recent gains in production and renewable generation over the past week,” Houston-based energy markets advisory Gelber & Associates said in a note to its clients in natural gas.
Industry analysts tracked by Investing.com had expected a build of 69 bcf on the average for last week, versus the 25-bcf injection for the week ended April 7.
The latest build also compared with the 47-bcf injection during the same week a year ago and a five-year (2018-2022) average increase of 41 bcf.
The EIA said inventories in U.S. gas storage now at a total of 1.930 trillion cubic feet, or tcf. That was 34% above the year-ago storage level of 1.442 tcf and nearly 21% higher than the five-year average of 1.601 tcf for gas inventories.
Chart-wise, the front-month May gas contract on the Henry Hub could stay above $2 so long as it held above major support at $2.04, Sunil Kumar Dixit, chief technical strategist at SKCharting.com. In Thursday’s trade, May gas got down $2.14 before rebounding off that session low.
The debate on when the bearish tide would irrevocably turn for ‘natty’ — as the all-season fuel for heating and cooling is known — has raged since gas prices began their headlong fall from 14-year highs of $10 per mmBtu, or million metric British thermal units, in August.
At brief intervals this year, the market had appeared to be on a cusp of a serious rebound — like in late February when it got above $3 after breaking below $2 earlier that month for the first time since September 2020.
This week, again, such a phenomenon appeared when the front-month May gas contract rallied to almost $2.40 — a level it had not reached since late March — exciting traders and analysts over the prospect of $3 pricing and beyond.