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Near-Term Weather Frostier; March Seen Up 3 Cents

March natural gas is expected to open 3 cents higher Tuesday morning at $2.63 as traders note some positive adjustments to near-term temperature outlooks. Overnight oil markets rose.

Analysts aren't looking for prices to stray far from recent ranges in the near term. "With output remaining sufficiently high to force much stronger than usual storage builds through the early part of the injection cycle, the likelihood of re-establishing a $3 handle would appear limited short of some major pipeline disruptions," said Jim Ritterbusch of Ritterbusch and Associates in Tuesday morning comments to clients.

"On the demand side, we haven't evidenced as much gas to coal switching as we had previously expected. Furthermore, consumption within the important industrial segment that comprises almost one-fourth of total U.S. demand is not showing much of an upswing despite a stronger rebound in U.S. economic activity than had been anticipated. Looking out over the next couple of sessions, it appears that values could remain confined largely to [Monday's] approximate 12-cent range prior to the usual Thursday price spike that could potentially inspire some fresh price lows."

MDA Weather Services in its Tuesday morning 11- to 15-day outlook said, "overall changes were minor in this period as the combination of the -EPO [Eastern Pacific Oscillation] and -WPO [Western Pacific Oscillation] continue to bring ridging to western North America and northward to Alaska. The result will be ongoing above-normal temperatures from the Rockies to the West, while the East continues to see variability stemming from high pressure dropping southward from Canada. The region from the Midwest to the East favors below-normal temperatures as a result, and computer models suggest stronger cold potential at times. This risk is most prevalent in the Plains, where the European model brings belows [normal temperatures]."

MDA said risks to the forecast include the PNA (Pacific North America) ridge shifting more north and west, and if that were to happen a greater expanse of below-normal temperatures would be possible in the central U.S. It added that the European model showed less warmth in the West.

Tom Saal, vice president at INTL FC Stone in Miami, in his work with Market Profile said to expect the market to test Monday's value area at $2.608-2.582 before moving on and "eventually" testing $2.943-2.911. "Buyers be ready. [Monday's] non-trend day continues to show horizontal pricing and possible 'bottoming' action."

In overnight Globex trading March crude oil fell 53 cents to $52.33/bbl and March RBOB gasoline was flat at $1.5773/gal.

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