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Traders Mull Weather, Technicals; May Called Unchanged

May natural gas is seen opening unchanged at $2.64 Wednesday as traders balance a moderate change in the weather outlook with a dangerous technical environment. Overnight oil markets rose.

MDA Weather Services in its six- to 10-day outlook said, "The forecast was cooled along the northern tier form the Midwest to the Northeast in this period as the region finds itself on the north side of the jet stream and influenced by low-level high pressure in Canada. This, however, will only act to keep temperatures closer to seasonal norms in the Midwest, while the Northeast is below normal. The West will likewise see temperatures at to slightly below normal levels in this period, with the coolest conditions through about mid-period before temperatures moderate.

"The South-Central and Southeast U.S. will be warm throughout the period. Cooler risks remain focused in the western U.S. and along the northern tier based on model guidance. Much-belows may span as far south as northern New England."

Risk management firm DEVO Capital currently is standing aside the market. No positions are suggested for trading accounts, end-users or producers. "Natural gas is currently testing support levels established in February of this year," said Mike DeVooght, president of the firm, in a note to clients.

Estimates of the week's storage injection report fluctuate around unchanged. "While our expected 7 Bcf increase is small, it would force further narrowing in the deficit against five-year averages," said Jim Ritterbusch of Ritterbusch and Associates.

Others see a small withdrawal. Tim Evans of Citi Futures Perspective senses that there are "expectations that Thursday's DOE storage report for the week ended March 27 will revert to a more typical seasonal withdrawal, with early estimates bracketing our own model's 11-Bcf net withdrawal forecast. While less than the 22 Bcf five-year average decline for the date, the draw may be enough to hold sellers at bay for now. However, the temperature outlook still suggests above-average storage injections going forward. We continue to view natural gas as arguably undervalued, but lacking a fundamental trigger that would set an upward correction in motion."

First Enercast Financial calculates a draw of 12 Bcf.

Market technicians see the natural gas market on something of a precipice. "The greater risk for natgas is still very much to

the downside. However it did not break down yet," said Walter Zimmermann of United Energy in a note to clients. "[We] peg critical support to a cluster of three candidates for support at $2.581, $2.537 and $2.476. Serious downside is on tap should the $2.476 be decisively broken. Bulls still need a decisive break out above $3.035 to have any case."

In overnight Globex trading May crude oil rose 10 cents to $47.70/bbl and May RBOB gasoline gained 2 cents to $1.7871/gal.

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