January natural gas was set to open about 4 cents higher Friday at around $2.640, with the anticipated arrival of frigid temperatures offering traders something to ponder heading into the holiday weekend.
After some mixed changes in the overnight weather data, NatGasWeather.com said, "We see no major changes to expectations as an impressively cold pattern from late this week will last well into the first week of January, just with exactly how much frigid Arctic air being tapped in need of refining.
"What's going to be most important over the long Christmas weekend is whether cold can last past Jan. 4," NatGasWeather said. "The latest data suggests there's likely to be a couple day break around then with cold moderating."
PointLogic Energy analyst Alan Lammey said the firm's latest six- to 10-day outlook shows U.S. population-weighted temperatures averaging 30.8 degrees, about 0.9 degrees colder than average.
"The five-day timeframe will start with a stronger southern storm that develops and tracks northeastward over the Ohio Valley and into interior New England from Dec. 27 through Dec. 29. Currently, the weather development looks to become a snow-to-rain event for the large metropolitan cities and locations of the Interstate 95 corridor, while a larger snow event may occur along the more northern portions of the Northeast.
Across the northern United States for the period, "the major models are indicating that generally cold temperatures producing conditions that are 10-15 degrees below normal...will be commonplace for much of" the six- to 10-day, Lammey said. "Elsewhere, the upper Midwest is projected to see potentially some of the brutally coldest temperatures in the nation."
Bespoke Weather Services counted some overnight gas-weighted degree day losses for Dec. 25-26.
"However, most guidance continued to show a very intense cold shot to close out 2017 that has not yet begun to lose any of its intensity," Bespoke said. "Such a strong cold shot coincides perfectly with the holiday weekend, lessening its impact, though it still appears strong enough to help support natural gas prices.
"From there, models are divided on just how quickly any colder pattern breaks down, as we likely see heating demand gradually easing through the first week of January."
Meanwhile, after breaking below long-standing support at $2.750, the technical picture for natural gas has shifted, according to Powerhouse President Elaine Levin.
The old support-turned-new-resistance "still continues to hold, and with Thursday's trading, you were even able to make a lower low," Levin said. "We broke out of the channel. The bears seem to be in control," even with Thursday's supportive storage withdrawal "we were still able to score a lower number."
February crude oil was set to open about 36 cents lower at around $58.00/bbl Friday, while January RBOB Gasoline was down fractionally to around $1.7424/gal.