April natural gas was set to open near even Friday at $2.673, with overnight weather data not offering enough to change the market’s mind after Thursday’s sell-off following a bearish Energy Information Administration (EIA) storage report miss.
“Forecasts overnight were very little changed, with European guidance printing out a very similar forecast with just more cold risks in the medium-term and more warm risks in the long-term,” said Bespoke Weather Services. “This fits with most other model guidance that shows a gradually easing pattern into the end of March, though with a bias still to the colder side overall.”
Guidance hints at potential cold risks lingering into April, but “on a seasonal basis it gets increasingly hard to have impactful heating demand outside of the next couple weeks, and without any major changes overnight, we continue to see weather as a supportive factor overall but not necessarily a major upward catalyst,” the firm said.
Bespoke expects to see prices “relatively pinned” around $2.68 Friday following the latest EIA storage report. It said “following a looser EIA print, we do not see many catalysts to move us in any significant direction, especially after two days of solid losses.”
On Thursday EIA reported a 93 Bcf withdrawal from U.S. gas stocks for the week ending March 9, tighter than the 55 Bcf withdrawn a year ago and close to the five-year average withdrawal of 97 Bcf. The number missed to the bearish side of expectations, and April slid 5.0 cents during Thursday’s session.
“Market sentiment remains inconsistent,” Societe Generale analyst Breanne Dougherty said in a note to clients Thursday. “After solid gains in price early this week due to a constructive weather outlook through the end of March, indications of a slightly less cold outlook in the last couple days and a bearish storage report Thursday morning prompted retreat. The front-month is now back under $2.70 after reaching $2.80 only a few days ago.
“As for us, our near-term view has held more steady than market sentiment,” Dougherty said. “...We are bullish in the near term with our forecast for the second quarter at $2.89, versus the forward market’s $2.71; third quarter at $3 versus the forward market’s $2.82; and fourth quarter at $2.98 versus the forward market’s $2.90. We recommend looking at dips, like Thursday’s, for entry into long positions on core summer 2018 and first quarter 2019 contracts given their potential for distinct upside pressure.”
ICAP Technical Analysis analyst Brian LaRose said following Thursday’s session that “either a correction of the $2.565 to $2.811 advance is underway or the longer term downtrend is resuming” for natural gas.
“To confirm a top is in place the bears will need to send natural gas crashing through $2.565-2.553-2.530-2.520,” LaRose said. “Succeed and the door will be open for a drop to $2.460-2.406-2.393 and likely $2.189-2.121-2.112. Fail to take out support and more sideways to higher price action is still possible near term.”
April crude oil was set to open about 18 cents higher at around $61.37/bbl, while April RBOB gasoline was down fractionally at around $1.9228/gal.