Natural gas slips, inventory data on focus

Natural gas futures slipped lower on Wednesday as investors looked ahead to upcoming U.S. inventories data, but losses held in check by forecasts for cooler weather.

On the New York Mercantile Exchange, natural gas futures for delivery in May traded at $4.559 per million British thermal units during U.S. trading, slipping 0.18%.

Natural gas futures were likely to find support at $4.513 per million Btu, Tuesday’s low and resistance at $4.592, the high of April 10.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration was set to release its storage data for the week ended April 11 on Thursday, with many analysts expecting the report to show the first significant build in inventories since November.

Severely cold weather over this past winter saw natural gas stockpiles fall to 11-year lows, sparking concerns that producers may not be able to refill inventories before the next heating season.

Producers typically replenish inventories between April and October, when demand is lower.

The heating season from November through March is the peak demand period for U.S. gas consumption. Approximately 52% of U.S. households use natural gas for heating, according to the Energy Department.

Last week’s government supply data showed that natural gas storage in the U.S. rose by 4 billion cubic feet, the first storage injection this year, while total U.S. natural gas storage stood at 826 billion cubic feet.

Meanwhile, forecasts were calling for colder temperatures in the central and eastern U.S. before moderating later in the week, which could underpin demand for the heating fuel.

Elsewhere on the NYMEX, crude oil futures for delivery in May rose 0.74% to $104.52 a barrel, while heating oil contracts for May delivery rose 0.63% to $3.0058 per gallon.