Nymex April natural gas was set to 2.6 cents higher at $2.701 Wednesday as overnight weather guidance increased confidence in a “very strong cold shot” from the Midwest into the Northeast from March 31 to April 3.
“All guidance agrees that cold will spread from the Midwest into the Northeast, potentially not diving down into the South or Gulf Coast but pulling heating demand significantly above average for the time of year,” Bespoke Weather Services forecasters said.
The most recent weather models are increasingly showing warmer trends into the second week of April, and Bespoke forecasters said that while the forecasts are still early indications, it was concerning that “the recent trend of continually adding gas-weighted degree days may stall over the next few days.”
Still, power burns remain quite tight at these price levels, and Bespoke expects the cold shot to close out March and lead to continued natural gas storage withdrawals into early April. The combination of near-term cold and long-range cold for early April should keep a floor for prices nearby, “especially with power burns remaining rather impressive, and indicates prices could rally a bit more once nuclear outages increase further too,” Bespoke said.
Production does limit upside, however, and prices this week may not be able to move past the $2.75 level. For today, there is room to reach at least $2.72 and prices could move higher through the week if storage data on Thursday does not disappoint. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported a 93 Bcf draw from storage inventories for the week ending March 9, below estimates ranging mostly in the upper 90s Bcf to low 100s Bcf.
Some early estimates for the week ending March 16 show the EIA reporting a storage withdrawal in the upper 80 Bcf range, which is slightly lower than last week’s draw, but it would reduce inventories to around 1,445 Bcf and widen the deficit to the five-year average to roughly 335 Bcf. For the comparable week last year, 137 Bcf was withdrawn from storage and the five-year average withdrawal stands at just 53 Bcf.
Weather remains a quite supportive factor through the end of the week, and “though we are worried about a flip warmer in April that could eliminate any weather premium, by then we will be looking at early cooling demand estimates and balance to drive price action regardless,” Bespoke forecasters said.
Crude oil futures were set to open 59 cents higher at $64.13, while April RBOB gasoline was set to open 1.7 cents higher at $1.983.