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Weather, Storage Discounted; May Seen A Penny Higher

May natural gas is expected to open a penny higher Thursday morning at $3.20 before release of a government inventory report curiously expected to show additions well above historical norms. Overnight oil markets rose.

Overnight weather models turned warmer, primarily from Texas into the Midwest. "Forecast changes were in the warmer direction and focused in the Eastern Half from mid to late period," said MDA Weather Services in its six- to 10-day report to clients. "This comes out ahead of low pressure tracking out of the Rockies and toward the Midwest at that time.

"Out ahead of this feature, temperatures in the much above normal category are forecast in Texas around mid-period and into the Midwest for the second half. There remains risk that temperatures in the Eastern Half could peak additionally warmer out ahead of this storm system. In the wake of the low, temperatures were cooled from previous expectations in the Rockies where belows arrive late."

Indications that Thursday's Energy Information Administration (EIA) inventory report might yield figures showing a storage build well above historical norms were no deterrent to market bulls Wednesday who lifted the May contract 4 cents, largely on technical grounds. Last year 6 Bcf was injected and the five-year pace stands at 35 Bcf, but estimates for this week's build report are coming in well above that.

Tradition Energy calculates an increase of 53 Bcf. A Reuters survey of 24 traders and analysts showed a sample mean of 48 Bcf with a range of 28 to 55 Bcf.

Market technicians are waiting and watching. "Still no break down. And the technical picture is ambiguous at best," said Brian LaRose, an analyst with United ICAP. "So we are stuck in a holding pattern until the situation changes. In terms of price, bulls need to better the $3.347 high to open the door for further upside. Bears need to take out the $3.114 to have a chance at further downside. As a reminder, if natgas can take out $3.114, a head and shoulders top will be activated."

In overnight Globex trading the expiring May crude oil contract rose 16 cents to $50.60/bbl and May RBOB gasoline added a penny to $1.6702/gal.

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