The NYMEX December natural gas futures contract largely was unfazed by a larger-than-expected US Energy Information Administration build to gas storage stocks Thursday, ultimately holding to pre-report levels and settling at $3.20/MMBtu, up 2.5 cents.
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The prompt-month contract traded between $3.152/MMBtu and $3.217/MMBtu Thursday.
For the week that ended November 3, US gas inventories rose 15 Bcf, EIA said Thursday morning, a build slightly above the 12-Bcf injection a consensus of analysts that S&P Global Platts surveyed expected.
As the end of injection season nears, stocks totaled 3.790 Tcf, about 2% below the five-year average.
Below-average temperatures in the key Midcontinent market have supported a 28-cent rise in the prompt-month contract over the past six sessions.
Midcontinent demand levels hit 17.5 Bcf/d, about 4.3 Bcf/d above the previous seven-day average, according to Platts Analytics' Bentek Energy data.
Overall US demand is expected to hit 88.65 Bcf/d Thursday, a level not seen since March 16, when demand topped 90 Bcf/d in the final weeks of the winter season.
Demand levels throughout the first 10 days of November averaged 76.5 Bcf/d, nearly 9.7 Bcf/d above the same strip in November 2016, putting the market in the position to see a withdrawal in the upcoming storage report.
EIA data showed storage stocks didn't begin consistent withdrawals until the third reporting session of November 2016, registering a 2-Bcf withdrawal.
Another injection is possible before the end of the traditional injection season, as demand is heavily contingent on temperatures. The latest eight- to 14-day outlook from the US National Weather Service projects average to above-average temperatures over key winter demand markets of Chicago and New York City up to Thanksgiving.
In addition, current November dry gas production is outpacing year-ago levels by 4.6 Bcf/d and shows no sign of slowing as multiple records have been set in recent months.
The NYMEX settlement is considered preliminary and subject to change until a final settlement price is posted at 7 pm EST (0000 GMT).
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--Edited by Valarie Jackson, firstname.lastname@example.org