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Natural gas futures fall on forecasts for shrinking supply gap

Christine Buurma
(c) 2014, Bloomberg News.
NEW YORK — Natural gas futures slipped for a second day in New York on estimates for a bigger-than-normal inventory gain that would shrink a deficit to five-year average supplies.

An Energy Information Administration report scheduled for release on Thursday may show gas stockpiles expanded by 100 billion cubic feet in the seven days ended June 27, exceeding the five- year average increase of 68 billion, according to the median of 13 analyst predictions compiled by Bloomberg. Supplies were 31 percent below the five-year norm as of June 20, a record for the time of year in EIA data going back to 2005.

"We've had a string of triple-digit injections into storage, which is easing supply concerns," said Phil Flynn, a senior market analyst at Price Futures Group in Chicago. "The focus is on whether Thursday's report will show a continuation of that trend."

Natural gas for August delivery fell 9.8 cents, or 2.2 percent, to settle at $4.357 per million British thermal units on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Volume for all futures traded was 23 percent below the 100-day average. Prices are up 3 percent this year.

Storage injections surpassed five-year average gains for 10 consecutive weeks through June 20, according to EIA, the Energy Department's statistical arm. Gas supplies totaled 1.829 trillion cubic feet, the lowest for the week since 2003.

The EIA estimates that record production will bring stockpiles to 3.424 trillion by the end of October, which would be the least for that time of year since 2008, according to the agency's June 10 Short-Term Energy Outlook.

Gross gas output in the lower 48 states rose 1.3 percent in April to a record 77.52 billion cubic feet a day from the previous month as new wells came online in Texas, the EIA said Tuesday in its monthly EIA-914 report.

Production from the Marcellus shale deposit in the Northeast will climb 1.9 percent in July to 15 billion cubic feet a day from 14.7 billion a month earlier, the agency said June 9 in its monthly Drilling Productivity Report.

Commodity Weather Group in Bethesda, Md., predicted normal or cooler-than-average weather in most of the eastern two-thirds of the U.S. through July 6.

The high in St. Louis on July 4 may be 82 degrees Fahrenheit, 6 less than usual, according to AccuWeather in State College, Pa. Cincinnati temperatures may reach 77 degrees, 10 below average.

Power plants account for 31 percent of gas consumption, according to the EIA, the Energy Department's statistical arm.

Tropical Storm Arthur may strengthen into a hurricane within two days and threaten North Carolina's Outer Banks before moving up the East Coast according to the National Hurricane Center.

Arthur was about 110 miles east-northeast of Cape Canaveral, Fla., with maximum sustained winds of 60 miles per hour, the Miami-based hurricane center said in an advisory at 2 p.m. Eastern time.

Deutsche Bank raised its forecast for first quarter 2015 natural gas prices by 10 cents to $5 per million Btu, the bank said in a note to clients Wednesday.

"The persistence of seasonally low inventories sustains upside risks to the winter," Michael Hsueh, an analyst at the bank in London, said in the report. Hsueh said stockpiles may total 3.366 trillion cubic feet by Nov. 7 of this year, or 72 percent of working gas capacity, the lowest percentage since 2000.

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