April natural gas was set to open Monday about a penny higher at around $2.704 as the latest weather data continued to offer a mix of bullish and bearish signals.
NatGasWeather.com noted a let-off in heating demand starting the second half of March.
“We went into the weekend break with the weather data trending colder over the eastern U.S. March 12-15 to add numerous heating degree days, which trended further colder over the weekend,” NatGasWeather said. “However, a mild ridge is still expected to expand to cover the eastern half of the country March 16-19 in a rather bearish setup where national demand would be lighter than normal.
“...Over the past two weeks there have been both warmer and colder trends, and neither has been able to lead to a sustained price reaction.”
Bespoke Weather Services said the weekend changes in guidance “generally fit with expectations, as we continued to see colder trends through much of the short- and medium-term with two strong cold shots moving across the country, though confidence in warming through the 11-15 day timeframe (especially in the East) increased further.”
The firm recorded a “slight” increase in gas-weighted degree days versus its forecast prior to the weekend.
Confidence in a warming trend starting around March 16 “eases any concerns of significant cold or heating demand sticking around through March, though we expect a couple large storage withdrawals before then to result from the sizable cold,” Bespoke said. “Thus, if anything weather remains a bit bullish at this stage, with medium-term cold trends easily more noticeable than they were Friday.”
The Desk’s Early View natural gas storage survey, released last week, showed respondents on average expecting a 56.9 Bcf withdrawal from this week’s Energy Information Administration report. That would be in line with the 57 Bcf withdrawal in the year-ago period but looser versus a five-year average withdrawal of 129 Bcf.
From a technical standpoint, and with winter almost over, bulls may be running out of opportunities to create “more of an upward trajectory rather than a listless sideways drift,” ICAP Technical Analysis analyst Brian LaRose said Friday. “Until and unless the bulls prove to us they are capable of marching higher I am inclined to treat this sideways drift as a temporary rest stop in a continuing down trend. Bears still need to crack $2.565 to send natural gas lower.”
April crude oil was set to open about 10 cents higher at around $61.35/bbl, while April RBOB gasoline was down about a penny to $1.8892/gal.