January natural gas was set to open about 8 cents lower Thursday at around $2.834/MMBtu after some warm changes showed up in the overnight weather data.
Meanwhile, the market was awaiting a potentially bearish storage report from the Energy Information Administration (EIA), with some analysts calling for a net injection for the week ended Dec. 1.
The consensus of estimates ahead of this week's EIA report, set for a 10:30 a.m. EDT release, showed the market bracing for an unusually light withdrawal, one much lighter than year-ago and five-year totals.
A Reuters survey of traders and analysts revealed on average a 7 Bcf net withdrawal for the week ended Dec. 1. Responses to the Reuters survey ranged from -66 Bcf to an injection of 3 Bcf. The -66 Bcf prediction was an outlier, with the next most-bullish survey response coming in at -25 Bcf. Responses to a Bloomberg survey ranged from -14 Bcf to 4 Bcf, with a median of -3 Bcf.
Last year 43 Bcf was withdrawn, and the five-year average shows a withdrawal of 69 Bcf.
MDA Weather Services noted warmer changes to both its six- to 10-day and 11-15 day outlooks.
In the 11-15 day, "A combination of warmer signals...and model trends over recent days have the forecast being warmer Thursday, including more intense above normal coverage in the Midcontinent/South and less stable belows for the East.
"However, this comes with still low confidence due to model disagreements in the upstream northern Pacific influence as well as what has been lower skill among the models in recent weeks at this lead time," MDA said in a morning note to clients. "That said, at least a temporary warm lean nationally is expected here."
According to NatGasWeather.com, "The data still continues to advertise a series of strong cold blasts sweeping across the northern and eastern U.S. the next two weeks for periods of strong heating demand, just not quite as impressive this round, while favoring a more pronounced break Dec. 18-19."
As for Thursday's EIA storage number, "It's a very tricky report due to the Thanksgiving/Black Friday weekend with school/office closures, aided by almost all of the country being considerably warmer than normal," NatGasWeather said. "Our analysis says to expect 0 Bcf, but with lower confidence this week."
ICAP Technical Analysis analyst Brian LaRose said in a note to clients late Wednesday to "beware of a breakdown beneath trend line support. In terms of price, bears still have three support candidates to contend with -- $2.854-2.845, $2.800-2.798-2.784 and $2.725-2.723 -- before a dump to the $2.500 neighborhood becomes possible. We suspect these levels will not be hard to crack if sentiment deteriorates."
January crude oil was set to open higher Thursday, trading up about 13 cents at around $56.09/bbl. January RBOB Gasoline was trading about a penny higher at around $1.7037/gal.