May natural gas was set to open Thursday about 2 cents higher at around $2.695 as forecasters reported somewhat milder changes overnight to the longer-term weather outlook while upcoming government storage data was seen bullish versus recent norms.
“Weather guidance overnight trended a bit warmer as we continued to see warmer trends in the long-range,” Bespoke Weather Services said. “Models have been gradually easing off the intensity of long-range cold as upper level blocking across central Canada seems to block the pathway for any further significant cold to move into the country.
“As a result, we are seeing forecasts where most days gas-weighted degree days a bit above average are likely with lingering stale cold, but that after April 17 the type of fresh cold that can really boost heating demand will ease.”
NatGasWeather.com said the overnight data trended “slightly milder in both the Global Forecast System and European models and more so on the back end of the 15-day forecast.
“Bigger picture, no major changes to our view as the northern U.S. remains slightly cooler than normal as weather systems track through every few days, although remaining comfortable across the southern U.S. with highs of mainly 70s and 80s.”
Meanwhile, estimates for Thursday’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) storage report have been pointing to a withdrawal during the first week of April, bullish versus the year-ago and five-year average for a period that would have kicked off the injection season if not for below normal temperatures sticking around.
A Reuters survey of traders and analysts on average predicted a 14 Bcf withdrawal from Lower 48 gas stocks for the period ending April 6, with estimates ranging from 9 Bcf to 38 Bcf. A Bloomberg survey produced a median estimate for a 12 Bcf withdrawal, with a range of 7 Bcf to 18 Bcf. Last year 9 Bcf was injected, matching the five-year average for the period.
IAF Advisors analyst Kyle Cooper called for a withdrawal of 12 Bcf, while Intercontinental Exchange EIA storage futures settled Wednesday at a pull of 14 Bcf. OPIS by IHS Markit also called for a 14 Bcf withdrawal.
“It was colder than normal across the northern and central U.S., while warmer than normal over most of the West and far southern U.S.,” NatGasWeather said. “Our algorithm sees it slightly bullish this week at around minus 16 Bcf.”
From a technical standpoint, “once again the bears were unable to force natural gas beneath the dense band of support stretching from $2.643 to $2.600,” ICAP Technical Analysis analyst Brian LaRose said after Wednesday’s close. “So bulls have another chance here. Their first task, build on Wednesday’s price action. Succeed and we will need to dust off our upside targets. Fail to send natural gas higher on Thursday and a drop to the $2.543-2.530-2.521-2.518-2.480 vicinity could still be on tap.”
May crude oil was set to open about 31 cents lower at around $66.51/bbl, while May RBOB gasoline was down about 1.5 cents to around $2.0531/gal.