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Anticipated Storage Pull Well Above Norms, But May Called 5 Cents Lower

May natural gas is set to open 5 cents lower Thursday morning at $3.18 as weather forecasts show little in the way of a definitive trend and bulls take a breather from the recent 12-cent advance. Overnight oil markets rose.

Longer term, overnight weather models were mixed. The 11- to 15-day period "offers a mix of changes that include a cooler West to Central and a warmer East Coast," said MDA Weather Services in its Thursday morning report to clients. "This comes in a lower than usual confidence period as models struggle to find agreement in what is expected to remain an active pattern out of the Pacific and into the U.S. In the wake of low pressure coming out of the Rockies late in the six-10 day period, above to much above normal temperatures are featured in the Midcontinent early and pressing southeastward as the period progresses.

"However, upstream ridging over Alaska has the forecast fading the warm anomalies late along the Northern tier. Model disagreements exist, with GFS being warmer in the Plains and cooler in Eastern Half versus forecast. The European model, preferred in the forecast, is cooler in the West.

Thursday's Energy Information Administration (EIA) storage report will play against a backdrop of expectations of reduced production and higher demand and a bullish number may launch an enhanced price response. Wells Fargo Securities LLC has raised its natural gas price forecast for 2017, citing increased exports to Mexico and overseas, as well as improving demand, which should outpace "moderate" supply gains.

The revised price forecast for 2017 is set at $3.38/MMBtu from $3.26. However, the price outlook was cut beyond this year to $3.25/MMBtu from a previous forecast of $3.41 in 2018, $3.31 in 2019 and $3.50 long term.

In the near term, exports to Mexico, liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports and improving industrial and residential/commercial demand should trump "moderate supply growth and declining power demand growth," said Wells Fargo analyst David Tameron.

Expectations are already running high. Estimates of the week's storage withdrawal are coming in around 40 Bcf, well above last year's 19 Bcf withdrawal and a 27 Bcf five-year average pull.

Kyle Cooper of ION Energy is looking for a withdrawal of 46 Bcf, and industry consultant Bentek Energy, utilizing its flow model, figures on pull of 43 Bcf. A Reuters survey of 20 industry cognoscenti revealed a 42 Bcf average with a range of -28 Bcf to -55 Bcf.

In overnight Globex trading May crude oil gained 31 cents to $49.82/bbl and May RBOB gasoline rose a penny to $1.6832/gal.

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