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Forecasts Ratchet Colder Still; February Called 6 Cents Higher

February natural gas is expected to open 6 cents higher Tuesday morning at $4.33 as weather forecasts notched a little colder by the end of the month. Overnight oil markets were mixed.

Forecasts continued to work colder in the more deferred time periods. WSI Corp. in its morning 11- to 15-day outlook said, "[Tuesday's] forecast has trended colder over the Northeast early, and over the northern Plains and ERCOT late in the period when compared to yesterday's forecast. Confidence is considered near to slightly above average standards as a result of good large-scale agreement between the latest models.

"A collapse of the polar vortex and settlement over the Northeast during the 11-15 day period favors cold risks early across much of the eastern two-thirds [of the country]. However, temperatures could begin to run warmer than forecast over the Plains late in the period if troughing is stronger than anticipated over the West late."

Analysts see additional room for prices to advance to last week's highs. "This market had virtually priced in a record 300 Bcf storage draw last week when prices plunged briefly to below the $4 mark," said Jim Ritterbusch of Ritterbusch and Associates in a morning note to clients.

"However, weekend updates to the temperature views are placing another near-record draw back on the table that could be issued later this month. Another round of frigid temperatures expected to cover the eastern half of the U.S. have the speculative shorts on the run again in the process of accommodating a price spike of more than 35 cents just within the past couple of trading sessions. This sharp upswing easily offset more than half of the price decline that developed from late December into late last week and underscored the hyper volatility that can be seen at this time of the year when the temperature forecasts are exhibiting dramatic changes over a short time period."

Tom Saal, vice president at INTL FC Stone in Miami, in his work with Market Profile is looking for the market to test Monday's value area at $4.254 to $4.214, followed by a test of $4.416 to $4.338 and "eventually" a test of $4.076 to $4.034. He said, "price volatility is back in price of natural gas! [There are] Multiple 'untested' value areas above and below the current price."

In overnight Globex trading February crude oil gained 30 cents to $92.10/bbl and February RBOB gasoline eased a cent to $2.6233/gal.

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