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Markets

US natgas futures steady ahead of storage report

  • That lack of price movement came despite forecasts for cooler weather and higher heating demand over the next two weeks than previously expected.
  • Front-month gas futures remained unchanged at $2.941 per million British thermal units.
06 May 2021

US natural gas futures held steady on Thursday as the market waited for direction from a federal report expected to show a smaller-than-usual storage build last week due in part to record exports.

That lack of price movement came despite forecasts for cooler weather and higher heating demand over the next two weeks than previously expected.

Analysts forecast US utilities added 64 billion cubic feet (bcf) of gas into storage during the week ended April 30. That compares with an increase of 103 bcf in the same week last year and a five-year (2016-2020) average increase of 81 bcf.

If correct, last week's injection would boost stockpiles to 1.962 trillion cubic feet (tcf), which would be 2.8% below the five-year average of 2.019 tcf for this time of year.

Front-month gas futures remained unchanged at $2.941 per million British thermal units at 9:00 a.m. EDT (1300 GMT).

That kept the contract in overbought territory with a Relative Strength Index (RSI) over 70 for a ninth straight day for the first time since September 2019.

Data provider Refinitiv said gas output in the Lower 48 US states averaged 90.7 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) so far in May, up from 90.6 in April but well below November 2019's monthly record of 95.4 bcfd.

Refinitiv projected average gas demand, including exports, would rise from 87.2 bcfd this week to 87.7 bcfd next week as the weather turns cooler. Those forecasts were higher than Refinitiv estimated on Wednesday.

The amount of gas flowing to US LNG export plants averaged 11.3 bcfd so far in May, down from April's monthly record of 11.5 bcfd.

Buyers around the world continue to purchase near-record amounts of US gas because prices in Europe and Asia remain high enough to justify the cost of buying and transporting the US fuel across the ocean.

Traders, however, said US LNG exports cannot rise much more until new units enter service in late 2021/early 2022, since the United States only has the capacity to export about 10.5 bcfd of gas as LNG. LNG plants pull in a little more gas than they export because some of the fuel is used to run the facility.

US pipeline exports to Mexico averaged 5.9 bcfd so far in May, down from April's monthly record of 6.1 bcfd, Refinitiv data showed.