May natural gas is seen opening 4 cents lower Wednesday morning at $1.91 as traders discount near-term weather forecasts and see follow-through selling in the wake of Tuesday's 4-cent loss. Overnight oil markets rose.
In spite of supportive weather conditions, analysts are pointing to Tuesday's failure as a sign that the market is going to need much more help than weather can offer if it is going to punch through $2.00.
"The natural gas futures market came under selling pressure on Tuesday after failing to clear Monday's price high, calling attention to the limited support of cooler than normal temperatures that will boost late-season heating demand over the coming week," said Tim Evans of Citi Futures Perspective in closing comments.
Short-term traders suggested that a quick bail by recent longs playing the run higher may have also prompted May's demise, but Evans was looking at traders exiting ahead of Thursday's Energy Information Administration (EIA) storage report. Evans said the early consensus is running at a 5 to 10 Bcf injection, "with a bearish comparison with the 19 Bcf five-year average net withdrawal for the date."
Evans forecasts a build of 13 Bcf, and if his data is correct, the current year-on-five-year surplus of 843 Bcf would fall to 799 Bcf by April 15. "With the surplus ending the forecast period at a lower level than it started, we see this as confirming the market will become at least somewhat tighter on a seasonally adjusted basis than it has been. This gives the market at least a chance to move higher, although it may not be enough to wedge the price above $2.00."
Evans recommends standing aside the market until a low-risk opportunity can be identified.
May futures may be discounting any significant weather impact, but spot traders in eastern markets will have some active weather and cooler temperatures to deal with.
The National Weather Service reported Wednesday morning that "a low-pressure system will move across the upper Midwest and Great Lakes today, bringing rain and snow to those regions.
"In its wake, another round of cold temperatures will invade areas from the Midwest to the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast. Scattered rain and snow showers will persist across the Midwest and Great Lakes on Thursday as colder air moves in, and the same will hold true for the eastern U.S. on Thursday night and Friday. While temperatures will remain 5 to 10 degrees below average today across the East, the colder air mass arriving behind this front will result in temperatures 10 to 20 degrees below average for Thursday and Friday across a wide area from the Midwest to the Mid-Atlantic."
In overnight Globex trading May crude oil gained 89 cents to $36.78/bbl and May RBOB gasoline rose a penny to $1.3860/gal.