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Markets

US natgas futures hold near 6-week low with storage back at normal level

The amount of gas in inventory was as much as 33pc below the five-year average in March 2019. Gas flows to LNG
11 Oct 2019
  • The amount of gas in inventory was as much as 33pc below the five-year average in March 2019.
  • Gas flows to LNG export plants eased to 6.0 bcfd on Thursday from 6.1 bcfd on Wednesday.

US natural gas futures traded within a few cents of unchanged near a six-week low on Friday as stockpiles return to near normal levels for the first time in two years despite forecasts for demand to rise as the weather cools with the coming of autumn.

Analysts forecast utilities added 103 billion cubic feet (bcf) of gas to storage during the week ended Oct. 11. That compares with an injection of 82 bcf during the same week last year and a five-year (2014-18) average build of 81 bcf for the period.

If correct, the increase would boost stockpiles to 3.518 trillion cubic feet (tcf), topping the five-year average of 3.505 tcf for the first time since September 2017.

The amount of gas in inventory was as much as 33pc below the five-year average in March 2019. But with production close to a record high, analysts said stockpiles should end the summer injection season at near normal levels of around 3.7 tcf on Oct. 31.

Front-month gas futures for November delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange remained unchanged at $2.217 per million British thermal units at 9:14 a.m. EDT (1314 GMT). On Thursday, the contract closed at its lowest level since Aug. 27.

For the week, the front-month was on track to decline about 6pc, putting it down for a fourth week in a row for the first time since early August.

Recent price swings in gas futures pushed at-the-money implied volatility, a determinant of option premiums, to 47.5pc on Thursday, its highest level since January. Over the past year, implied volatility has swung wildly, hitting a record high of 117.5pc in November and a record low of 18.6pc in April.

Refinitiv projected gas demand in the lower 48 US states, including exports, would rise from 83.9 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) this week to 86.0 bcfd next week and 86.5 bcfd in two weeks as cooler weather boosts heating demand faster than lingering power generator air-conditioning demand declines.

Gas flows to LNG export plants eased to 6.0 bcfd on Thursday from 6.1 bcfd on Wednesday, according to Refinitiv data. That compares with an average of 6.1 bcfd last week and an all-time daily high of 6.8 bcfd on Aug. 25.

Refinitiv projected LNG exports could jump to a record 6.9 bcfd in late October if Dominion Energy Inc's Cove Point plant in Maryland returns to service.

Pipeline flows to Mexico held at 5.6 bcfd for a second day in a row on Thursday, according to Refinitiv data. That compares with an average of 5.6 last week and an all-time daily high of 5.9 bcfd on Sept. 18.

Gas production in the lower 48 states eased to 92.8 bcfd on Thursday from 93.0 bcfd on Wednesday, according to Refinitiv data. That compares with an average of 93.1 bcfd last week and an all-time daily high of 93.8 bcfd on Sept. 29.

In the spot market, next-day power for Friday at the Ercot North hub in Texas fell to its lowest since May 2017.