March natural gas was set to open Friday about 3 cents higher at around $2.882, a small uptick for a contract that has sold off sharply since trading above $3.200 earlier in the week.
Moderating trends in the outlook for mid-February cold helped send the market lower.
Radiant Solutions said its latest 11-15 day outlook Friday “trends warmer in the eastern third relative to previous expectations, with models remaining mixed in their upstream projections around Alaska.
“The European model cuts off the Arctic connection late in the six- to 10-day period and is broadly warmer as a result...With consideration to no model standing out over the past several weeks as best in handling the pattern, as well as the Madden-Julian oscillation propagating into phase eight, the forecast holds onto belows in the eastern third and remains steady with aboves in the West.”
Bespoke Weather Services said the overnight guidance “came in generally mixed, with American Global Ensemble Forecast System guidance showing warmer trends in the long-range to fit with European guidance pulling heating demand below average, but European guidance turning sizably colder in the medium-range as at least one strong cold shot looks to move down across the center of the country.”
Bespoke said it was watching $2.85 as support and $2.92 as resistance Friday.
“Though it is a tight range a number of conflicting signals may lead sellers to take a break after the last couple of days,” the firm said. “We do see a modest amount of cold risk in the medium-term that should support the market and the strip appears supportive thus far, with backs helping prop up the March contract.”
Meanwhile, Thursday’s Energy Information Administration storage report -- a 99 Bcf withdrawal for the week ending Jan. 26 -- matched the market’s bearish expectations.
“As expected, this week’s print disappointed versus norms and fell just below market expectations,” analysts with Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co. (TPH) said Friday.
Early predictions for next week’s report were coming in around -115 Bcf versus norms of around -140 Bcf, according to the analysts.
“Some relief may be provided with arctic weather forecasted around Valentine’s Day, but expect little love for the forward curve with markets leaning balanced to oversupplied -- in the teeth of winter, no less,” TPH said.
From a technical standpoint, ICAP Technical Analysis analyst Brian LaRose said, “If the bulls are going to have any shot at staging a recovery they will need to prevent natural gas from slipping below the dense cluster of support stretching from $2.810 to $2.640.
“Carve out a bottom and we can entertain the possibility of another leg up on par with the move from $2.568 to $3.661,” LaRose said. “Fail to carve out a bottom and $2.189-2.121 becomes our downside target. Watch the technicals closely here.”