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Futures Bounce Back, Sort Of; April Seen 4 Cents Higher

April natural gas is expected to open 4 cents higher Tuesday morning at $2.72 as prices recover somewhat from Monday's double-digit drubbing and traders factor in a moderating weather outlook. Overnight oil markets fell.

Top traders suggest holding on to any short positions. "[Monday's] heavy selling appeared to signal the end of an extremely cold February-early March period that took a large dent out of storage," said Jim Ritterbusch of Ritterbusch and Associates in closing comments Monday to clients. "Weekend updates to the one- to two-week temperature views that now extend into the official beginning of spring proved too bearish to ignore as above-normal temps appear widely disbursed across the country, with deviations from normal sizable through much of the Midcontinent. As a result, a large storage draw in this week's EIA [Energy Information Administration] report is being overshadowed by the expectation of some sharply downsized supply declines to be issued during the last half of this month.

"As a matter of fact, storage could see a bottom before the end of March in contrast to the usual tendencies for a trough in early April. The calendar is also working against this market as a possible shift back toward cool temperature trends won't be forcing much of an upswing in HDDs. [Monday's] price action reinforced our bearish stance and our expectations for a price decline to the $2.50 area. Any new shorts established late last week within the $2.80-2.88 zone would represent a hold."

Gas buyers will likely be factoring in load-killing rain into today's trading plans. According to forecasters, widespread rain is on tap. Kari Strenfel, a meteorologist with Wunderground.com, said, "Expect more heavy rain to spread across the Eastern Valleys on Tuesday as a low-pressure system over the western Gulf of Mexico advances northeastward. Counter-clockwise flow around this system will continue pushing abundant moisture in from the Gulf of Mexico, allowing for moderate to heavy rainfall to develop.

"Expect heaviest rain to move through the mid-Mississippi River Valley and into the Tennessee and Ohio valleys, with widespread scattered showers developing from eastern Texas through the Virginias and southern New England late Tuesday night. Most areas will see rainfall totals ranging from a half of an inch to an inch, with isolated totals over two inches possible for parts of Arkansas, Tennessee and Kentucky.

"In the North, a strong low-pressure system moving through eastern Canada may push a few snow showers into the Great Lakes and extreme Northeast. Due to limited available moisture, only a dusting of snow is likely for these areas."

Temperature-wise Wunderground.com forecasts above-normal readings in major markets. Chicago's Tuesday high of 52 is expected to drop to 44 Wednesday before rising to 51 Thursday, 7 degrees above normal. New York's 50 high on Tuesday is seen advancing to 60 Wednesday before sliding to 52 on Thursday. The normal high in New York is 48.

In overnight Globex trading April crude oil fell 22 cents to $49.78/bbl and April RBOB gasoline eased a penny to $1.8616/gal.

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