April natural gas is expected to open 4 cents lower Monday morning at $1.87 as risk managers see no need to enter the market and technical factors deteriorate. Overnight oil markets were mixed.
Technical analysts are pondering whether Friday's setback might portend further difficulty for the bullish case. "To dismantle the Elliott Wave case for one more marginally lower low natgas must break decisively above the $1.965 level," said Walter Zimmermann of United ICAP in a weekly note to clients. "This $1.965 was last week's key resistance. Was Friday's retreat from a $1.957 high just nervous profit-taking by new bulls in front of the weekend? Or was it a sign of trouble ahead for the bulls?"
Zimmermann's relative strength indicator trading model gave a sell signal Friday from the $1.957 high.
Risk managers are biding their time for the moment. Mike DeVooght, president of DEVO Capital Management, said in a weekly comment to clients that last week's bearish storage report "failed to stop the natural gas from rallying. El Nino produced a warmer than normal winter, and there is a good chance we could experience above-average temperatures this summer. An anticipated warmer summer, along with short-covering, has helped the natural gas market to rally over the past couple weeks.
"On a trading basis we are standing on the sidelines for now."
Near-term weather patterns are likely to keep spot traders active, although no major supply-demand shifts are expected. "A trough of low pressure will transition over the Northwest on Monday, while a low-pressure system brushes across the coast of New England," said Kari Strenfel, meteorologist with Wunderground.com.
"A Pacific system will make its way across the northwestern quadrant of the country. This system will usher light to moderate rain and high-elevation snow over the Pacific Northwest, northern California, the northern Great Basin and the upper inter-mountain West. Back East, an Atlantic low-pressure system will brush across the coast of New England. Gusty winds and light to moderate snow will affect eastern New England.
"A frontal system will also sweep across the Great Lakes, producing light snow from northern Wisconsin to New York. A ridge of high pressure will build over the deep South on Monday. Cool and dry weather is expected for most of the Midwest, the deep South, the Mid-Atlantic and the Southeast."
Tom Saal, vice president at FCStone Latin America LLC, in his work with market profile sees an active week of trading. He expects the market to test last week's value area at $1.891 to $1.809 "then test" $1.786 to $1.695. "Maybe" the market will test $2.223 to $2.084.
In overnight Globex trading April crude oil fell 23 cents to $39.21/bbl and April RBOB gasoline added a penny to $1.4381/gal.