May natural gas is expected to open 7 cents lower Monday morning at $1.92 as traders factor in lower weather-driven demand near term and potentially stronger usage later on. Overnight oil markets rose.
Weather forecasters are calling for near-term moderation and less energy demand. Commodity Weather Group in its Monday morning report said, "The main story from the weekend is generally warmer changes this week and next, leading to a net loss of demand (opposite of prior weekend). The modeling this morning is in fairly good agreement on warmer than normal temperatures for the Midwest and West Coast during the six-10 day period, with a slight warmer leaning for the East Coast, too.
"About 10 national HDDs are expected to be lost in the forecast and while we may have gained one to three CDDs overall, the net impact of cooling demand is still fairly small this early in the game. The 11-15 day is starting to look somewhat more complex as some models try to return high pressure ridging to-ward the Gulf of Alaska," said Matt Rogers, president of the firm.
Although a moderating weather pattern may be in play in the short run, longer-term forecasts are more bullish. The probability of a transition from a Pacific El Nino to a La Nina event later this year, which many forecasters believe could pump up tropical storm activity in the Atlantic Basin, could also lead to a hotter-than-normal summer, according to MDA Weather Services.
The June-through-August period is expected to be 9.6% hotter than the 30-year norm, based on population-weighted cooling degree days, which would rank the summer as the fifth hottest since at least 1950, slightly hotter than the 10-year norm and only slightly hotter than last year, MDA said.
In the meantime, risk managers are biding their time "Natural gas will most likely be in a holding pattern until we get closer to the summer cooling season," said Mike DeVooght, president of DEVO Capital, a Colorado-based trading and risk management firm. "If we get warmer than normal temperatures early in the season, we could move back into the mid-$2 range. On a trading basis, we will continue to stand aside and await further developments."
Should the opportunity arise, however, DeVooght recommends physical market longs sell the April October strip at $2.70. The problem is the strip settled Friday at $2.191.
In overnight Globex trading May crude oil added 11 cents to $39.83/bbl and May RBOB gasoline gained a half cent to $1.4686/gal.