May natural gas is set to open 7 cents lower Monday morning at $2.46 as traders assess a weakening weather environment and market technicians ponder whether overnight weakness signals a new and lower technical trading landscape. Overnight oil markets eased.

Overnight weather models prompted forecasters to call for a milder near-term outlook. In its Monday morning six- to 10-day outlook, MDA Weather Services said, "The most substantial change in the forecast from Friday comes in this period, which is a bit warmer from the Midwest to the East. Above-normal temperatures are now expected to span from the central Rockies to the Midwest, and into the East as well beyond mid-period. This adjustment accounts for a disturbance over Canada, which will help to advect warmer temperatures downstream.

"An upper-level system will also aid in this transport of warmer air into the central U.S., while allowing for the belows in the South form the one- to five-day to fade in intensity with this period. Cooler risks are noted in the Midwest as a ridge builds into the Gulf of Alaska, particularly beyond mid-period." Other risks include a cooler West late as a trough deepens aloft, the forecaster said.

In addition in its automated weekend six- to 10-day outlook, the National Weather Service showed a much more expansive pattern of above to much above normal temperatures. The entire nation is shown as above normal, with minor occurrences of normal to below normal temperatures in South Texas and Florida. Friday's forecast showed an above-normal West but below-normal temperatures east and south of a sinuous arc extending from eastern Michigan to Tennessee to central Texas.

Should the opening weakness continue, it may signal a new technical regime boding still lower prices. Brian LaRose, a technical analyst at United ICAP, said Friday that in order for the market "to signal the down trend is still intact bears need to crack both $2.475 and $2.426-2.409. If they can make this happen, a test of the $1.902 low would be on the table.

"However, as long as the bulls can prevent natgas from taking out these support candidates, bottoming action can not be ruled out. Though to make a case for a sustainable recovery, bulls would need a close above $2.736-2.759-2.777.

In overnight Globex trading June crude oil fell 17 cents to $56.98/bbl and June RBOB gasoline fell fractionally to $2.0044/gal.