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Moderate Midwest Cooling On Tap; Expiring May Called 4 Cents Higher

The expiring May natural gas futures contract is seen opening 4 cents higher Monday morning at $4.69 as forecasts of cooling in pivotal Midwest and Great Lakes markets ripple though the market. Overnight oil markets were mixed.

Forecasters see a continuation of a cooling trend in the Plains and Upper Midwest. WSI Corp. in its morning 11- to 15-day outlook shows below and much below normal temperatures north of a line from Buffalo, NY, to Chicago, to Casper, WY. The remainder of the country is normal, with the exception of Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, which is seen as above normal.

"[Monday's] forecast is a bit cooler in the north and warmer in the south compared to Friday's forecast. Confidence remains near to slightly below average heading into the middle of the month. All signs point to a continuation of the amplified, energy-laden pattern through day 15. As such, expect temps to end up more extreme than forecast in the central/east on any given day especially if another storm develops in a similar fashion as the current one."

Market technicians see short-term weakness developing. "Natgas had numerous, excellent opportunities to break out above the pivotal $4.760 resistance last week but failed to do so and ended the week on a weak note," said Walter Zimmermann, vice president at United ICAP, in a weekly note to clients. On a 300-minute candlestick chart Zimmermann noted that instead of breaching the $4.76 level the market reversed lower to bearish dark cloud cover. "A further corrective retreat appears on tap," he said.

More fundamental analysts see the market sputtering as well. "Looking ahead, we think that the season-to-date rally might continue to falter as the pick-up in restocking undermines the market's willpower to retain the excessive length that has recently accumulated," said Teri Viswanath, director of commodities strategy, natural gas, at BNP Paribas.

Longer term, however, she sees little change. "Despite this record-setting pace for restocking expected next month, we still see an impressive year-on-year storage deficit looming by end October. In our opinion, the absence of a 'quick fix' for inventories should once again fuel reliability concerns, enabling a restart of the injection season rally."

In its Early View Forecast, Energy Metro Desk Friday tabulated an estimated 77 Bcf storage injection for the week ended April 25. Last year, 41 Bcf was injected, and the five-year average build is 58 Bcf.

In overnight Globex trading June crude oil rose 35 cents $100.95 /bbl and June RBOB gasoline shed a half cent to $3.0218/gal.

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