December natural gas is set to open 8 cents higher Monday morning at $2.70 even though clouds are darkening over the longer-term weather outlook. Analysts see a supportive political environment going forward and healthy prices in 2017. Overnight oil markets fell.
A leading industry consultant has taken a look at broad weather patterns and suggests that the ongoing warmth is likely to persist deeper into the traditional heating season. In addition to a lack of ridging in the Gulf of Alaska, Genscape points to a dearth of snow cover over North America.
"At this point in a typical November, snow coverage extends southward close to the U.S.-Canadian border. At the start of the record cold Winter 2013-2014 (which started relatively normal) the latitudinal snow line extended to the U.S.-Canadian border, and even farther south into areas like the western Great Lakes and upper New England. At this date last year there was coverage across the western Canadian provinces and extending southward into the U.S. along the Continental Divide. Presently, however, there is virtually no appreciable snow coverage south of northern Quebec."
Genscape also points to emerging La Nina conditions, which feature warmer- and drier-than-normal conditions across the southern two-thirds of the United States, with cooler-than-normal conditions for Western Canada and north-central and west coast U.S. states. "La Nina is generally not regarded as a major influence on Northeast and Mid-Atlantic weather. The last La Nina event featured in the U.S. and Canada was during the remarkably warm Winter 2011-2012. We wish to note, however, that there are significantly more factors that will influence this winter's weather than just ridging, snow cover, and La Nina," Genscape said.
Traders and analysts are mulling the likely impact of a Trump presidency on the natural gas industry and markets, and as yet the consensus seems to be generally positive, but key details such as the role of coal versus natural gas have yet to be ironed out. President-elect Trump's promise to bring back the coal industry, as well as questionable views about climate change, could have a negative impact, according to energy experts.
"A Republican nominee in general tends to be more industry friendly than not, so I would say the industry as a whole saw Trump as more supportive...than not," said Breanne Dougherty, an analyst with Societe Generale in New York. "I can't really think of too many things that would be first on the list of this president-elect that would really affect natural gas prices in any sort of material way."
Societe Generale still expects 2017 gas prices to average $3.50/Mcf. In 2018 gas prices are expected to peak at around $3.90/Mcf, with longer-term prices averaging $3.50.
In overnight Globex trading December crude oil fell 25 cents to $42.41/bbl and December RBOB gasoline dropped a penny to $1.2956/gal.