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Traders Mull El Nino, Spring; November Called Unchanged

November natural gas is set to open unchanged Monday morning at $2.45 as traders question the amount of remaining market downside and focus on distant buying opportunities. Overnight oil markets rose.

Risk managers are looking for a lower spot to enter the long side of the market. "The gas market has been under pressure this entire summer because of moderate temperatures, plentiful supply and plummeting commodities in general," said Mike DeVooght, president of DEVO Capital, a Colorado-based trading and risk management firm. "As we look forward to the heat season, which can often be supportive to the gas market, demand expectations have been ratcheted lower because of the El Nino.

"On a trade basis, we have been looking for an opportunity to get long the natural gas market but have not felt like we have yet reached the bottom of this move. We would start to be a light buyer if January reaches the $2.50 level." DeVooght recommends buying January futures for both end-users and trading accounts should the contract trade that low. January futures settled at $2.798 Friday.

All indications are that the El Nino will be one of the strongest on record. "The atmospheric response to the equatorial sea-surface temperature anomalies, measured by their atmospheric ENSO index (AEI), is the strongest event since at least 1948," said Todd Crawford, a meteorologist at WSI Corp.

Typical impacts of an El Nino are the southern United States from California to the Carolinas then up through parts of the East Coast become wetter, but parts of the Ohio Valley, Great Lakes, Northwest and Northern Rockies are drier.

The desert Southwest, Southern Plains, northern Gulf Coast are cooler, but the northern tier of states from the Pacific Northwest to the Northern Plains, Great Lakes and Northeast are warmer. "These are impacts that are typically expected, but they aren't always the rule," The Weather Channel said.

Tom Saal, vice president at FC Stone Latin America LLC, put it succinctly: "El Nino means low gas prices."

One analyst doesn't see too much downside remaining in the near term, but the spring contracts could be highly vulnerable to high ending inventories.

"While the most extreme cold scenario would have the market exiting March at over 1 Tcf, assuming a production average of around 72.5 Bcf/d through the five months, a warm scenario has the potential to drive that level well above record highs. Thus we see the March through May contracts as highly vulnerable to downside pressure under anything less than a normal to cold weather scenario," said Breanne Dougherty, an analyst with Societe Generale in New York, in a report.

"We don't see much material downside left here given how the market has bounced off the $2.55/MMBtu level all summer and the lack of risk of storage containment type price pressure.

We see the curve as predisposed to upside from here through mid -December...beyond that, though, we are bearish through June 2016."

In overnight Globex trading November crude oil gained 56 cents to $46.10/bbl and November RBOB gasoline rose 2 cents to $1.3649/gal.

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