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Bears On Full-Court Press; May Called A Penny Lower

May natural gas is expected to open a penny lower Monday morning at $2.63 as weather forecasts prove variable and analysts pile on the bearish bandwagon. Overnight oil markets slipped.

Forecasters see widely varying conditions going forward but nothing likely to have a major impact on supply-demand balances. "We continue to track a challenging pattern dynamic as strong cold air supply resides across central to eastern Canada, but active influences from the Pacific prevent much of it from getting into the U.S," said Matt Rogers, president of Commodity Weather Group in the firm's Monday morning report.

"Changes are mixed today, but [we] see more lower demand than higher demand adjustments compared to Friday's forecast. Some cooler changes midweek on the East Coast are offset by warmer changes late this week into the start of the weekend. More widespread warmer changes across the South next week also offset some cooler changes there this coming weekend. The 11-15 day is not as warm as forecast yesterday across the Midwest, East and South, but the pattern still navigates toward that warmer look as the models show some marginal western cooling. Risks are generally to the warmer side for the middle third of April with some chance to shift back cooler again late in the month."

Analysts can't seem to put on their bear suits fast enough. Steve Mosley, publisher of SMC Natural Gas Price Forecasting and Advisory Services, suggests that prices may be poised to fall from 10 to 45 cents. "[T]he market initially tried to resume some upside movement, but it then proceeded to give back all of the previous week's gains. It fell further after a somewhat bearish storage report and made a serious challenge of our Feb. 6th winter seasonal low point of $2.567 in the final minutes of the week as the April contract expired. Thus, while a sharp rally like we saw between March 16th and 18th tends to be a good indicator that a winter seasonal decline is complete, it didn't turn out to be so this time. As such, it appears that we may see the market actually break at least somewhat lower here in the waning days of March and actually achieve our $2.20-2.55 winter target range."

Michael Cohen, an analyst with Barclay's Commodities Research, is sticking with his lower price regime. "Lingering cold weather has failed to keep natural gas prices supported as the shoulder season begins. Production is rebounding from freeze-offs during the winter and has led to the first net storage injection of the year. As we forecast last month, we maintain our view that prices will fall to average $2.45 over the course of Q2 and will average $2.75 during 2015," he said in a Monday report.

At BMO Capital Markets, analysts have knocked 75 cents off their forecast price. "The 2014-2015 winter heating season proved to be a bust for North American natural gas prices and the outlook for the summer is no better," said analyst Randy Ollenberger. "We are lowering our Henry Hub assumption to $2.75/Mcf from $3.50/Mcf and our 2016 assumption to $3.25/Mcf from $4.00/Mcf. We continue to recommend that investors largely remain on the sidelines over the first half of the year."

In overnight Globex trading May crude oil fell 28 cents to $48.59/bbl and May RBOB gasoline fell fractionally to $1.7944/gal.

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