March natural gas is called 8 cents higher Friday morning at $2.05 as weather forecasts trend in the cooler direction past mid-month. Overnight oil markets were mixed.
Weather models overnight showed increasing cold in the eight- to 15-day period, according to forecaster Natgasweather.com. "Weather systems out of Canada will sweep across the central and eastern U.S. with below-normal temperatures and areas of snowfall. Details of how much polar air arrives will need refining due to a very strong temperatures gradient draped across the northern U.S. The West will be mostly dry with milder temperatures. The pattern after Feb. 15th is fairly uncertain with plenty of adjustments to come.
"The weather models are still battling who will win out late next week and beyond between a strong Pacific jet stream approaching the West Coast versus additional polar blasts over Canada attempting to push across the border. The latest data shows a mix of wildly varying solutions, but with the cold camp gaining some momentum back after milder mid-day trends. This makes what happens with today's midday data important to see if colder trends can actually stick after so much flip-flopping in the data the past several days," the firm said.
Traders aren't necessarily buying into any significant weather impact at this late stage of the heating cycle. "The strong overnight rebound appears more related to a technically oversold condition rather than any major adjustments in the short-term temperature outlooks," said Jim Ritterbusch of Ritterbusch and Associates in a Friday morning note to clients. "While below-normal patterns across the eastern half of the U.S. still appear intact, we will reiterate that deviations from normal don't appear pronounced and that response to significant deviations from normal going forward will be cushioned by this advanced stage of the HDD cycle.
"And while the market's ability to discard yesterday's seemingly bearish storage figure that was far removed from our expectation by some 17 Bcf might be signaling the beginning of a sizable price recovery, we will note that weather events, such as the recent major east coast snowstorm, are always difficult to gauge as far as [power generation] impact is concerned. Nonetheless, we are still allowing for some further price recovery into the $2.15-2.20 zone in referencing nearby futures where we will look to re-establish a short holding."
On the economic front, the Labor Department reported an increase in non-farm payrolls of 151,000 for January, less than the 180,000 expected by economists. The unemployment rate dropped to 4.9%, the lowest rate in eight years.
In overnight Globex trading March crude oil rose 19 cents to $31.91/bbl and March RBOB gasoline lost a penny to $1.0186/gal.