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March Natural Gas Called Sharply Lower as Weather Models Moderate Overnight

March natural gas was set to open Wednesday about 13 cents lower at around $3.066 as overnight weather models backed off of recent cold trends toward the middle of February.

“In what can only be described as one of the largest overnight ensemble changes of the last few years, all guidance moved in a direction that was markedly warmer overnight” with patterns showing “cold having significantly less staying power across the center of the country,” Bespoke Weather Services said Wednesday.

“...It had been clear for the past week plus that cold weather risks in February were the one thing propping up an otherwise rapidly loosening natural gas market, and we saw sizable downside once that cold was removed from the equation.”

NatGasWeather.com said the Global Forecast System, which had been “impressively cold the past few days” while the European had been warmer, “was milder trending throughout.

“Clearly the markets are disappointed, with prices sharply lower overnight. There’s still expected to be numerous cold blasts out of Canada sweeping across the northern and eastern U.S. in the weeks ahead, just a little less impressively in this round of data.”

Estimates for this week’s Energy Information Administration storage report as of Tuesday were pointing to a much smaller withdrawal versus the 288 Bcf pull reported last week.

PointLogic Energy on Monday estimated a 91 Bcf withdrawal for the week ending Jan. 26.

“At this level, net withdrawals would come in 197 Bcf below last week’s reported withdrawal as milder weather spread across the East, Midwest, and South Central regions week-on-week,” PointLogic analysts said in a note to clients. “Additionally, injection demand in the South Central region’s salt cavern storage facilities picked up significantly.”

Stephen Smith Energy Associates revised its estimate Tuesday to a withdrawal of 101 Bcf, after previously calling for a 98 Bcf pull. That’s versus a seasonally normal draw of 159 Bcf based on 2006-2010 norms, according to the firm.

Intercontinental Exchange futures for this week’s EIA report settled at -100 Bcf Tuesday.

From a technical standpoint, “the bulls are back at square one thanks to the big discount between the expired February contract and the newly spot March contract,” ICAP Technical Analysis analyst Brian LaRose said Tuesday.

February rolled off the board at $3.631 Monday.

“To get the March contract back to where the February contract left off the bulls will need to better both $3.196-3.228 and $3.417-3.491,” LaRose said. “Will be forced to entertain the possibility of a top developing otherwise.”

March crude oil was set to open about 32 cents lower at around $64.18/bbl, while February RBOB gasoline was down about a penny to $1.8815/gal.

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