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South, East Seen Warmer; February Called 3 Cents Lower

February natural gas is set to open 3 cents lower Friday morning at $3.24 as overnight weather models showed near-term moderation. Overnight oil markets rose.

MDA Weather Services in its morning six- to 10-day outlook said, "The forecast sees a sizable change in the warmer direction today in the South and along the East Coast, which comes as a result of increased unsettledness in the southern Midwest acting to limit the southward extent of a colder Canadian air mass into the U.S. from mid to late period. Strong aboves are now expected to average the period in parts of the South, including in Texas, while much aboves span northward into the Northeast. Strong cold will remain in place from Western Canada toward the Northern Plains, with the coldest air being found there in the early half of the period."

MDA said risks to the forecast include the "Euro model show[ing] some cold air damming potential late in the East; but given the positive tilt to the pattern, this is likely only a brief and marginal cold risk. Texas could peak warmer still."

The sharp 46-cent selloff of the February contract Tuesday and Wednesday has veteran traders sensing an opportunity. "I'm a buyer. I think they overdid it," said Alan Harry, director of trading at McNamara Options LLC.

“I think what happened is that [storage] numbers were coming in and over the previous four weeks, not including this one, and the draws were greater than what everyone expected. I think this is a one-time reversal to get the numbers back in alignment. I think numbers went incorrectly for four weeks and now they are going the other way.

"We are going to need some cold weather [to get to $4] because the producers are going to ramp up and start selling again. There will have to be some real cold weather and confirmation of that cold weather [colder than what is already in the market] to get the speculative traders to add to their position.

"I think they will get it. Next week I think we will see longer-term weather reports turn colder and bolster the market. If we get that, the specs will get long again. They are long now, but they liquidated a lot over the last two days. I think we'll get a push to $4 but not in the February contract, $3.70 to $3.75 at best, and I think the March contract will see $4 to $4.25," Harry said.

In overnight Globex trading February crude oil added 39 cents to  $54.19/bbl and February RBOB gasoline rose a penny to $1.6496/gal.

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