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Softer Weather Outlook Prompting Market Retreat; April NatGas Seen 6 Cents Lower

April natural gas opened 6 cents lower Thursday morning at $2.92 as overnight weather forecasts moderated and the end of the heating season looms. Overnight oil markets rose.

Market technicians see the bulls as having some work to do. "Unless the bulls can promptly better the $3.089 high [Monday], we would be ready for a deeper retracement of the $2.522 to $3.089 advance from here," said Brian LaRose of United ICAP. "At this point it should not take much to set a deeper retreat in motion, a break beneath Wednesday's $2.923 low ought to do the trick. As a reminder, we will be treating any slide from the highs as corrective in nature for the time being.”

The 10:30 a.m. EDT release of storage figures by the Energy Information Administration for the week ended March 10, however, could revive the bullish case should inventory data come in more bullish than anticipated. Last year 9 Bcf was withdrawn, and the five-year average is for a healthy 85 Bcf utilization.

Estimates are coming in right in the middle. ICAP Energy calculates a 57 Bcf withdrawal, and industry consultant Bentek Energy, utilizing its flow model, figures on a 56 Bcf pull. A Reuters poll of 20 traders and analysts revealed a sample mean of a 56 Bcf decline with a range of -47 Bcf to -72 Bcf.

Near-term weather forecasts moderated. WSI Corp. in its Thursday morning report said, "The latest six-10 day period forecast is warmer than [Wednesday's] forecast across the majority of the CONUS. CONUS GWHDDs are down 5.3 to 92.1 for the period.

"Any small shift with a sharp cold front and details with a storm system can cause the forecast to swing in either direction, especially on a localized/regional basis. The north-central U.S. and the southwestern U.S. have colder risks, but the southern U.S. could run even warmer.”

In overnight Globex trading April crude oil gained 36 cents to $49.22/bbl and April RBOB gasoline rose 2 cents to $1.6021/gallon.

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