The expiring March natural gas contract is set to open 5 cents lower Thursday morning at $1.73 as traders see little change in a moderate weather landscape and also look forward to burdensome storage levels. Overnight oil markets were mixed.
Overnight weather forecasts turned moderately warmer. MDA Weather Services in its Thursday morning six- to 10-day outlook said it "sees a mix of changes in this period; although the East turns warmer in the early half as models come into better agreement with the track of a developing storm system from the South-Central to the East. Despite temperatures turning colder in the latter stages, the period on the whole features slightly above normal readings for the major East Coast cities from Washington, DC, to Boston.
"The Midwest remains the region of lowest confidence as models struggle to determine how much cold air can intrude into the region in the wake of disturbances undercutting the western ridge."
MDA said risks to the forecast include the American model showing below normal coverage in the Midwest, "but this has been a bias in the model. The East could be warmer at mid-period as low pressure tracks toward the region."
The 10:30 a.m. EST release of inventory data by the Energy Information Administration is likely to show the last triple-digit draw of the season. Inventories currently stand at 2,706 Bcf and are a stout 555 Bcf above the five-year average.
Last year, 204 Bcf was withdrawn and the five-year withdrawal pace is for a 144 Bcf draw. Estimates of this week's reported pull fall closer to the five-year average.
Industry consultant Bentek Energy, utilizing its flow model, is counting on a 131 Bcf reduction, and ICAP Energy is looking for a withdrawal of 134 Bcf. A Reuters poll of 22 traders and analysts showed an average -139 Bcf with a range of -126 to -162 Bcf.
John Sodergreen, publisher of Energy Metro Desk said his survey is around -139 Bcf, but "we think a low-side report will be published by EIA this week, more like low-to-mid 130s. Oddly enough, the editor and the GWDD Model forecast are both around -140."
In overnight Globex trading April crude oil fell 15 cents to $32.00/bbl and April RBOB gasoline was unchanged at $1.2758/gal.