May natural gas was set to open Thursday about 4 cents higher at around $2.737 as overnight weather data showed colder temperatures lingering longer into April over the northern United States.
“The overnight Global Forecast System (GFS) weather model was colder trending, especially April 7-12, favoring cool conditions holding over the northern U.S. more strongly, but still mild over the western, southern and eastern U.S.,” NatGasWeather.com said. “The European model wasn’t as cold after April 8, but still favored some cooling into the northern and central U.S.
“...We’ve been stating that $2.72 on the front month has provided both support and resistance the past numerous weeks and thought it would be important for the bulls and bears to control,” the firm said. “And when the GFS came in a little colder overnight, prices took out $2.72 after finding a bevy of stops waiting.”
Whether prices hold after the Energy Information Administration (EIA) storage report set to be released later today, “will be of keen interest, as will any midday temperature trends ahead of the long holiday weekend, which could aid stronger volatility.”
Estimates for the EIA report set for release at 10:30 a.m. EDT have been pointing to a smaller withdrawal compared to last week’s but tighter versus recent norms.
A Reuters survey of traders and analysts on average predicted a 70 Bcf withdrawal from U.S. gas stocks for the week ending March 23, with responses ranging from 50 Bcf to 81 Bcf. Last year, 58 Bcf was withdrawn during the period, and the five-year average is a withdrawal of 46 Bcf.
Last week, EIA reported an 86 Bcf withdrawal for the period ending March 16.
Analysts with OPIS by IHS Markit said they expect EIA to report a 67 Bcf withdrawal. IAF Advisors analyst Kyle Cooper called for a 67 Bcf pull from gas stocks, while Intercontinental Exchange futures for the upcoming report settled at 63 Bcf Wednesday.
“It was colder than normal” during the report period “over much of the northern U.S., while warmer than normal over Texas and the southern U.S.,” NatGasWeather said. “Our algorithm sees it as neutral this week, expecting a draw around 68 Bcf.”
From a technical standpoint, the May contract would need to “plummet below $2.614-2.600 to restore the down trend,” according to ICAP Technical Analysis analyst Brian LaRose. “While I would not rule out the possibility of more downside for Thursday, I am not convinced the bears will be able to make that happen. Assuming natural gas can avoid a break below support another slow drift to the upside is possible over the next couple weeks. Our initial upside target in this case, $2.817-2.841.”
May crude oil was set to open about 9 cents lower at around $64.29/bbl, while April RBOB gasoline was trading fractionally lower at around $2.0075/gal.