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Traders Looking Beyond Weather, Storage; December Called 9 Cents Higher

December natural gas is expected to open 9 cents higher Friday morning at $2.79 as traders survey the weather/supply landscape and see a market having discounted many bearish dynamics. Overnight oil markets inched higher.

Forecasters see no consistent changes to the longer-term weather outlook. "[Friday's] 11-15 day period forecast changes are mixed. Colder revisions were made over the Northeast, interior West and even the Midcontinent late in the period," said WSI Corp in its Friday morning report. "CONUS GWHDDs are up 0.6 for days 11-14 to 100 for the whole period, which are 18 below average."

Gas buyers tasked with procuring incremental supplies for power generation across PJM should have plenty of wind generation to work with. "High pressure will continue to slide across the Mid-Atlantic today ahead of a vigorous storm system over the central U.S.," WSI said. "Partial sunshine and a southerly breeze will lead to above-average temperatures with highs in the 60s and 70s. The aforementioned storm system along with its trailing cold front will sweep across the power pool this evening through Sunday morning with a narrow swath of rain, a few thunderstorms and changeable conditions.

"A gusty south- to west-northwest wind associated with the storm system will lead to a period of strong wind generation today through Sunday. During this surge, output is forecast to peak 4-6 GW."

Mild near-term weather may already be incorporated into the market. "Mild expectations are beginning to stretch into the month of December in forcing long-term forecasts back toward the likelihood of another mild winter that will be slowing storage withdrawals," said Jim Ritterbusch of Ritterbusch and Associates in closing comments Thursday. "These drawdowns will likely begin to show up within the EIA report to be released two weeks from today. This week's mild temperature trends will likely be driving one last injection that will probably lift supply to a record peak to between 4.05 and 4.06 Tcf.

"Storage excess against five-year averages has been increasing in recent weeks to a level that is now some 216 Bcf, or 5.6%, above five-year averages, a sizable cushion available to meet the needs of a colder than normal winter. But while these items would appear to paint a bearish picture, we feel that much bad news has already been baked in and that any surprises on the weather or production fronts are much more apt to be bullish than bearish from here. But at the same time, we continue to caution against attempts to pick a bottom to this recent $1 price plunge without assistance from a significant shift in the weather outlooks."

In overnight Globex trading December crude oil rose 6 cents to $45.48/bbl and December RBOB gasoline gained fractionally to $1.3442/gal.

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