February natural gas was set to open Wednesday about 7 cents higher at around $3.196/MMBtu, as forecasters noted some potential heating demand gains later this month.
"The overnight weather data was colder trending with a weather system Jan. 26-28, especially the European model, but was little changed otherwise," said NatGasWeather.com. "Also of interest, the data continues to advertise a mild ridge returning over the East Jan. 29-31 in a rather mild setup, although with weather model differences."
Bespoke Weather Services said the data continued “to trend slightly stronger with a cold shot around Jan. 28 that seems to have kept a bid under natural gas prices, but warmth is expected both in the short-term and the long-term."
The market could also be anticipating another large withdrawal in Thursday's storage inventory report from the Energy Information Administration, Bespoke said.
"A combination of very strong cash prices, modest medium-term gas-weighted degree day additions that continue in this pattern and expectations of large storage drawdowns to be announced both Thursday and next week" all appeared supportive as of Wednesday morning, according to the firm.
Stephen Smith Energy Associates in its Weekly Gas Outlook predicted a withdrawal of 196 Bcf for the week ending Jan. 12. That's versus a seasonally normal weekly withdrawal of 187 Bcf based on 2006-2010 norms, the firm said.
PointLogic Energy predicted a 197 Bcf withdrawal for the week ending Jan. 12. "Total demand fell just over 27 Bcf/d week-on-week as the prior week's cold front dissipated," PointLogic said in a note to clients Tuesday. "The decline in demand was spread across the entire country, with the largest decline coming from the East and Midwest regions."
From a technical perspective, ICAP Technical Analysis analyst Brian LaRose questioned whether Tuesday's move lower would prove "another epic failure, or just a minor setback for the bulls?
"To keep the case alive for a march to $3.431-3.477, the bulls must prevent $2.930 from breaking, then lift natural gas above the $3.224/3.231 highs...fail to promptly accomplish these two tasks and we will be forced to target lower prices," LaRose said.