NEW YORK: US natural gas futures were little changed on Thursday as rising liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports offset a smaller-than-expected weekly storage build and an increase in output.

The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) said utilities injected 102 billion cubic feet (bcf) of gas into storage during the week ended May 29. That was less than the 110-bcf build analysts forecast in a Reuters poll and compares with an increase of 118 bcf during the same week last year and a five-year (2015-19) average build of 103 bcf for the period.

The increase boosts stockpiles to 2.714 trillion cubic feet (tcf), 18.4% above the five-year average of 2.292 tcf for this time of year. Front-month gas futures rose 0.1 cents, or 0.4%, to settle at $1.822 per million British thermal units.

Refinitiv said gas production in the US Lower 48 states fell to an average of 88.5 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) so far in June from a one-year low of 89.3 bcfd in May and an all-time monthly high of 95.4 bcfd in November.

Traders, however, noted daily output was up from a one-year low of 87.3 bcfd hit a couple of weeks ago. The amount of pipeline gas flowing to US LNG export plants was on track to reach 5.2 bcfd on Thursday after dropping to a 13-month low of 3.7 bcfd on Monday. That compares with an eight-month low of 6.4 bcfd in May and a monthly record high of 8.7 bcfd in February.

Analysts said US LNG exports dropped in recent months after buyers canceled cargoes due to the collapse in European prices.

But after collapsing to record lows last week, major European gas benchmarks have soared around 50% this week. That drove forwards for August and September at the Dutch Title Transfer Facility (TTF) above the US Henry Hub for the first time since late April.

Copyright Reuters, 2020