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Trader Sees Spot Futures Climbing Above $4; September Seen Up 4 Cents

September natural gas is expected to open 4 cents higher Friday morning at $3.92 as traders anticipate a cautious move above $4. Overnight oil markets rose.

Analysts see futures making a modest advance over $4. "Although [Thursday's] miss from average street [storage] expectations was bullish as we expected, it amounted to only 2 Bcf and as a result failed to push values to a $4 handle," said Jim Ritterbusch of Ritterbusch and Associates in closing comments Thursday to clients.

"While subsequent price action looked bearish, we still see nearby futures ratcheting upward toward the $4.08 area by next week with any assistance from updates to the short-term temperature views. But for now, forecasts still favor patterns slightly cooler than normal across a broad swath of the U.S., a trend that should keep EIA storage injections elevated through the rest of this month.

“The shortfall against five-year averages has now been cut to around 20%. We look for this shortfall to narrow further in gradual fashion by about 1% per week through the injection cycle with this year's peak supply falling only about 6% below averages. While this expected additional narrowing in the deficit will restrict upside price moves, we don't see it as capable of sustaining price rallies without major help from a sustained hot spell or a huge hurricane event. All in all, we are maintaining a cautious bullish short-term view in anticipation of a small price lift to about the $4.08 area."

Alan Lammey of WeatherBELL Analytics said, "Today is an important 'price pivot' day as a 'close above' $3.95 would set the stage for a further advance in prices up to the $4.05 area or higher, but a close below $3.88 today (the weekly Friday close) indicates a increased chance this week's short retracement rally may be losing steam."

Weather forecasters seem to be having difficulty with the models but are sticking with cooler trends. In its morning 11 to 15-day forecast, Commodity Weather Group admitted to conflicting model interpretations. "Based on trends seen [Thursday] at midday and holding consistent overnight, we strengthen the Midwest cool push next week. More rain risks toward the South offer some cooler changes from Dallas across to the Tennessee Valley, too," said Matt Rogers, president of the firm.

"The East Coast is about the same or cooler overall compared to [Thursday's] outlook. We also make some cooler changes to California for next week as the ridge situation is not as optimized for hotter offshore flow, especially for the South. Despite these cooler shifts, we still see the pattern adjustment in the 11-15 day. Both the American and European ensembles agree to bring above-normal temperatures to the East Coast, but they disagree a bit on the timing and much more so on the Midwest situation. The Euro warms the Midwest (seasonal to above) and the American keeps it cooler (seasonal to below). Based on recent trends, we pulled back cooler for the Central U.S."

In overnight Globex trading September crude oil inched higher by 20 cents to $97.54/bbl and September RBOB gasoline gained fractionally to $2.7727/gal.

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