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Temperature Outlook More Seasonal; January Called 8 Cents Higher

January natural gas is expected to open 8 cents higher Monday morning at $2.11 as the parade of unseasonably warm weather forecasts has abated and market technicians see a case for a market bottom. Overnight oil markets fell.

Weather forecasts have changed somewhat from last week, with the pattern of above normal and much above normal temperatures in the near and intermediate term in the East and Midwest giving way to somewhat more seasonal patterns. Commodity Weather Group in its Monday morning six- to 10-day outlook shows below normal temperatures south and west of a line from Washington to Nebraska to Mississippi. The East and Midwest are shown as normal to slightly above normal.

"While we are estimating a slight loss compared to Thursday's forecast based on same-day forecast estimates, perhaps the bigger story is the slower return of a stronger warm pattern by the second week of January. Instead, the models are favoring the idea that colder variability persists with less warmth coverage. A transient cool to cold push is still favored to sweep from West to East during the six-10 day, and while the air mass weakens when it comes eastward, it offers the "least-warm" five-day period we have seen in a while in the East.

"The 11-15 day shows increasing support for high pressure ridging around Alaska, the North Pole, and even toward Greenland, which are bigger colder pattern signals; however, there is also a strong undercutting Pacific flow to somewhat offset this new cold air connection and complicate the forecast considerably. We still believe a warmer East pattern wins out, but it is not nearly as warm as before," said Matt Rogers, president of the firm.

Market technicians see the case beginning to form for a major market low. "With natural gas challenging $1.995-2.051, the case for bottoming action is starting to gain serious traction," said Brian LaRose of United ICAP in closing comments Thursday. "Can the bulls put the final nail in the coffin, so to speak? To confirm a trend reversal is in fact taking hold, bulls need to push natural gas through $2.294-2.304-2.345-2.386. A decisive close above this zone would significantly increase the probability of a major low developing."

In overnight Globex trading February crude oil fell $1.11 cents to $36.99/bbl and February RBOB gasoline shed 3 cents to $1.2495/gal.

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