The U.S. Energy Information Administration reported a net 147-Bcf withdrawal from natural gas inventories in the Lower 48 during the week ended Dec. 9 that was above the full range of expectations coming into the day and significantly above historical averages.
The first triple-digit withdrawal of the season was greater than the market consensus of 132 Bcf that fell within the full range of projections that spanned drawdowns from 117 Bcf to 144 Bcf. The pull was well above the previous week's withdrawal of 42 Bcf and exceeded the five-year average withdrawal of 79 Bcf and the 46-Bcf withdrawal reported for the same week in 2015.
The withdrawal brought the total U.S. working gas supply to 3,806 Bcf, turning the year-on-year surplus to a deficit of 50 Bcf and shrinking the year-on-five-year average storage surplus to 186 Bcf.
January 2017 natural gas futures were trading lower ahead of the report's 10:30 a.m. ET release. Sinking to $3.475/MMBtu, the contract was 2.5 cents lower at $3.515/MMBtu just prior to the figure's release. Following the release of the data, the contract turned positive but held below the $3.589/MMBtu prerelease high and, at last look, was just 0.7 cent higher on the session at $3.547/MMBtu.
In the East, inventories were down 34 Bcf on the week, at 865 Bcf, or 3.8% below the year-ago level. Storage levels in the Midwest were down 41 Bcf, at 1,071 Bcf, equal to the year-ago level. In the Mountain region, storage levels were down 12 Bcf on the week, to 244 Bcf, or 20.2% above the year-ago level, while in the Pacific region, storage levels were down 11 Bcf, at 312 Bcf, or 13.6% below the year-ago level. In the South Central region, where storage levels were down a net 49 Bcf on the week, stocks are at a deficit of 0.6% to a year earlier.
Working gas stocks in the South Central region totaled 1,314 Bcf, with 388 Bcf in salt cavern facilities and with 927 Bcf in nonsalt cavern facilities. Working gas stocks were down 15 Bcf in the salt cavern facilities and down 33 Bcf in nonsalt cavern facilities since the previous week.
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