December natural gas futures rose Wednesday in a quiet session punctuated more by trader anticipation of the extended holiday weekend than the release of bullish storage data or options expiration. At the close December had risen 4.5 cents to $3.460 and January had added 4.7 cents to $3.608. Oil and equity markets faltered. January crude oil dropped $1.84 to $96.17/bbl and with 45 minutes to the close the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 163 points to 11,330.
Before the release of the data a Reuters poll of 16 traders and analysts showed a 19 Bcf average with a range of 10 Bcf to 28 Bcf. Industry consultant Bentek Energy also estimated a 19 Bcf increase. Ritterbusch and Associates was looking for an 18 Bcf build, as was IAF Advisors in Houston. Industry consultant Bentek Energy expected a 19 Bcf gain, identical to the average of a Reuters poll of 16 analysts and traders. The less-than-expected build was still greater than last year and five-year average injections of a 7 Bcf pull, and Thursday's report sent both comparisons well into positive territory.
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