June natural gas is expected to open 7 cents lower Monday morning at $2.11 as buyers bide their time on implementing any long hedges. Overnight oil markets eased.
Analysts see a more bullish tonality to the market but at the same time see something of a cat-and-mouse game in play.
"The market is getting more bullish on natural gas, thanks to what seems to be improving supply and demand fundamentals," said Nicholas Potter, an analyst with Barclays Commodities Research. "Calendar 2017 has gained 20 cents/MMBtu since the start of the year. However, investors have been more cautious further out on the curve (2018-2020). With producers waiting in the wings to hedge their future production volumes, potential buyers seem reticent to fund producer growth now, only to find a potentially oversupplied natural gas market once again by 2018."
Risk managers are keeping their powder dry for the moment. "Over the past few weeks, the gas market has been working higher, especially the deferreds," said Mike DeVooght, president of DEVO Capital Management, in a weekly note to clients. "We continue to see a decline in open interest, which indicates that the funds, which have been carrying a large short position for quite some time, are starting to liquidate their positions.
"Natural gas will most likely be in a holding pattern until we get closer to the summer cooling season. 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."
DeVooght does suggest for physical market longs to sell the remainder of the April-October strip at $2.70 should the opportunity arise. Friday the strip settled at $2.379, however, according to DeVooght.
Early power generation demand in the Southeast looks like it's off to a strong start. "Residents of the southeastern United States may feel like the calendar has flipped ahead to Memorial Day, with warm and muggy weather in place for the start of May," said AccuWeather.com meteorologist Kristina Pydynowski.
"A predominantly southerly flow will set up across the Southeast into Monday, [and] moisture will pick up from the warming Gulf of Mexico waters and move into the region, bringing high dew points. Highs in the 80s will dominate the Southeast from Florida to North Carolina on Monday. Many areas in central Florida will crack the 90-degree mark." Highs in early May typically range from the middle 80s in central Florida to middle 70s in North Carolina, AccuWeather said.
In overnight Globex trading June crude oil fell 8 cents to $45.84/bbl and June RBOB gasoline fell fractionally to $1.6023/gal.