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April natural gas was set to open Thursday about a penny higher at around $2.788, with the overnight models holding onto recent cold trends and the market looking ahead to the 10:30 a.m. EDT release of government storage data.
Looking at the overnight data, NatGasWeather.com said the Global Forecast System “was a touch milder,” while the European and Canadian models were “slightly colder, but most importantly holding colder trends from recent days, especially for March 21-25 where chilly conditions are favored to set up across the northern half of the country.”
With the colder weather outlook recently pushing prices higher, “to our view, trade the next few days into early next week should be very interesting,” NatGasWeather said. “Will prices continue to rally as long as cold remains back-weighted in the weather maps? Or are bears setting a trap to push prices down sooner, regardless?”
Estimates ahead of the Energy Information Administration (EIA) storage report have pointed to a withdrawal that would be in line with a year ago but looser versus the five-year average.
A Reuters survey of traders and analysts on average predicted a 58 Bcf withdrawal for the week ending March 2, versus a year-ago withdrawal of 57 Bcf and a five-year average pull of 129 Bcf. Responses ranged from -44 Bcf to -69 Bcf. A Bloomberg survey came in with a median -58 Bcf and a range of -50 Bcf to -69 Bcf.
Last week, EIA reported a 78 Bcf withdrawal from U.S. gas stocks.
OPIS, through its newly formed analytics division (formerly PointLogic Energy), estimated a 61 Bcf withdrawal for the week, with the smaller withdrawal week/week “owing to an uptick in production and warmer weather in the Midwest and Mountain regions.”
Stephen Smith Energy Associates called for a 57 Bcf withdrawal. Intercontinental Exchange futures for the upcoming report settled at -58 Bcf Wednesday.
“It was much warmer than normal over the eastern half of the country and colder than normal over the western half” during the report period, NatGasWeather said. “Our algorithm sees it a touch bearish with a draw of -56 Bcf, although easily could be a couple Bcf off to either direction.”
From a technical standpoint, ICAP Technical Analysis analyst Brian LaRose said following Wednesday’s close that “the shake out continues. But will it be enough to get natural gas north of $3? To have a shot at $3.061-3.091 or higher objectives the bulls must first better both $2.774-2.797-2.823 and $2.872-2.894.
“As a reminder, even if the bulls can produce such a run I am still inclined to treat any recovery as corrective in nature,” LaRose said. “So while the trend may point up now, we are looking to sell into this levitation eventually.”
April crude oil was set to open about 3 cents higher at around $61.18/bbl, while April RBOB gasoline was down fractionally at around $1.9098/gal.