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Volatile Weather Keeps Market on Alert; April Called 4 Cents Higher

April natural gas is expected to open 4 cents higher Tuesday morning at $2.77 as traders grapple with volatile weather patterns and the market tests support at the $2.75 level. Overnight oil markets rose.

Overnight weather forecasts proved a challenge to meteorologists as "springtime volatility brings some additional chaos into the typical forecast and causes difficulties as plenty of weather systems and oscillations in the jet stream reduce our confidence from what we would find a more stable pattern signature," said Matt Rogers, president of Commodity Weather Group, in the firm's Tuesday morning six- to 10-day outlook.

[Tuesday's] forecast brings some marginally warmer changes to the Midwest and East in the six-10 day and then some cooler to colder changes for the 11-15 day range. In the six-10, the western warm ridging extends a bit more into the Plains and Texas to offer warmer risks and limit eastern cooling abilities, but by the 11-15 day, the western warm ridge flattens and the Hudson Bay low-pressure area sinks a bit farther south to send more cooling back into the Midwest and East again. It is definitely a complicated dance as the Alaskan ridge pattern starts to weaken at this time, too."

Analysts are looking for a place to sell, but they strike a cautionary stance as both cooler weather forecasts and a stronger crude oil market failed to elicit much market response in Monday's trading.

"Within such an environment, we advise selectivity in approaching the short side as we will await rallies in May futures to above the $2.82 level before establishing new shorts," said Jim Ritterbusch of Ritterbusch and Associates in closing comments Monday to clients. "The market also appears to be moving into a time frame when the longstanding cold weather factor will be removed as a price prop in forcing a greater focus on production that is apt to remain on the increase for a few more months.

"We also believe that the weekly storage data will be packing less pricing punch going forward as deviations from average industry ideas will likely become smaller with the weather factor wrung out of the forecasts for a while. A slight injection [report] is possible on Thursday and could possibly signal an earlier than usual supply bottom that could receive a bearish interpretation. In any event, we still see values ratcheting lower in erratic fashion down to the $2.50 area."

In overnight Globex trading May crude oil rose 51 cents to $47.96/bbl and May RBOB gasoline added a penny to $1.8106/gal.

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