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Weather Outlook Mixed; December Seen Unchanged

December natural gas is set to open unchanged Tuesday at $2.950 as traders look for additional cold that may act as a catalyst for further price advances. Overnight oil markets were mixed.

Weather models overnight were mixed, calling for both warming and cooling. "Some slightly colder short-range changes for the Midwest to East helped to partially offset some warmer changes for the six-10 day in these same areas this morning," said Commodity Weather Group in its Tuesday morning report. The models are struggling somewhat with a very active storm track over the next two weeks. Some of these storm systems could bring up some sizable warming out ahead of them, but the negative North Atlantic Oscillation could also suppress the track, offering cooler-to-colder risks, too.

"The other debate point is the future of the Western cold outbreak in the 11-15 day. The American and Canadian are more aggressive in spilling this cold out into the Midcontinent and toward Texas, while the European holds it back longer into the Western U.S.," said Matt Rogers, president of the firm.

Analysts see conflicted fundamentals and technicals. "[T]he bulk of the price advance appeared driven by some colder adjustments within the short-term temperature views during the past weekend," said Jim Ritterbusch of Ritterbusch and Associates in closing comments to clients Monday. "Furthermore, nearby futures hitched a ride on the tails of a stronger physical market that is developing off of a current Midcontinent cold spell. But despite [Monday's] upside breakout to three-week highs, tacking on additional gains could prove arduous in the absence of some below-normal temperature expectations across the upper Midwest.

"Storage will likely see a new record per Wednesday's EIA report that will be released a day early due to the holiday. We are expecting an injection of about 7 Bcf that would imply a further stretch in the surplus against five-year averages of about 35 Bcf. Given this supply cushion amidst some shifts in longer-term forecasts away from a cold winter, additional price gains could prove limited. Nonetheless, our technical indicators suggest upside possibilities to as high as $3.20 basis January futures where we may look to approach the short side for a trading turn depending upon weather updates."

Tom Saal, vice president at FCStone Latin America, in his work with Market Profile expects the market to test Monday's value area at $2.953 to $2.933, followed by a test of either $2.843 to $2.825 or $3.107 to $3.043. Saal said he wasn't sure in what order the tests would take place.

In overnight Globex trading January crude oil fell 18 cents to $48.06/bbl and January RBOB gasoline gained a penny to $1.4112/gal.

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