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January NatGas Called Higher as Chillier Temps Return to Outlook

January natural gas was set to open about 7 cents higher at around $3.09 Friday after rebounding overnight on some increases to projected heating demand over the next two weeks.

The gains overnight followed a 15.4-cent drop in Thursday's trading brought on by warmer changes to the forecasts for a cold pattern moving through starting the middle of next week.

"Weather forecasts overnight added a few gas-weighted degree days (GWDD) back to the forecast, and finally (as expected) our GWDD forecast is above the climatological average, as cold rushing across the country Dec. 6-7 appears likely to last at least through Dec. 15," Bespoke Weather Services said in a morning update to clients.

While short-term heating demand leaned warmer "and Dec. 10-11 continue to trend modestly warmer on some guidance...the main overnight trend was increasing confidence in another strong cold shot across the country" Dec. 13-15, Bespoke said. And "all model guidance showed increasing odds of another strong long-range cold shot following the one that we will see at the end of next week, and it is this development that seems to be supporting" prices Friday morning.

The swings have been larger with weather arriving, but natural gas continues to trade within a long-standing range, Powerhouse LLC President Elaine Levin told NGI Thursday.

"It's also month-end, and natural gas had a heck of a run up the previous few days,” she said. “Maybe there was some profit-taking as well" in Thursday's sell-off. "This has been a long-established range in prices. It's been going for months. When you have a range-bound market, that's what you do until it breaks out of the range. In a trendless market, you buy the low of the range and sell the top of the range, and we saw both in five sessions.

"If you start to move above $3.25, then you might be onto something."

Following Thursday's close, analyst Brian LaRose of ICAP Technical Analysis said his firm is "not ready to abandon the bullish case yet, but after Thursday's price action we are not willing to give the bulls much latitude either.” He pegged $2.970-2.950 "as our line in the sand. If the bulls can not hold this zone we would be prepared for the downtrend to continue near-term."

Analysts with Tudor Pickering Holt & Co. (TPH) said in a note to clients Friday that after the 33 Bcf storage withdrawal reported by Energy Information Administration for the week ended Nov. 24 "weather adjusted supply and demand looks to be relatively balanced, consistent with the previous week." Noting the potential for noise in the data from the Thanksgiving holiday, the TPH analysts said there's been "significant change in year-to-date trends in the supply/demand dynamic" for gas recently, "likely a combination of rapid growth in northeast supply over the last three months (about 2-3 Bcf/d based on flow data) and slowing sequential demand growth."

January crude oil gained overnight and was set to open about 43 cents higher Friday at around $57.83/bbl. January RBOB Gasoline was up fractionally to around $1.7398/gal.

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