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Analysts Hint at Return to Sub-$2 Pricing; March Called 4 Cents Lower

March natural gas is expected to open 4 cents lower Wednesday morning at $2.06 as traders look beyond expected near-term cold and mull the possibility of the market revisiting $2 once the wintry blast subsides. Overnight oil markets rose.

Although spot, and to a lesser extent futures, markets are grappling with a near-term weather event expected to pound the Midwest and East, analysts suggest that the next bearish weather forecast could prompt another visit to below $2.

"The warm temperatures this winter have limited natural gas demand across the country. Currently, residential and commercial natural gas demand is an average of 2.5 Bcf below normal per day for the U.S. this winter," said EnergyGPS, a Portland, OR-based power and natural gas consulting firm, in a morning report to clients.

"Year-on-year demand profiles look "fairly similar between now and the 14th before this year's demand forecast is driven down by warm temps. The downside after the 14th is so substantial that residential/commercial demand is expected to be 6.4 Bcf/d below last year on average over the next 15 days. During February 2015 total natural gas withdrawals from storage were around 720 Bcf, considering the substantial difference in the weather forecasts, it seems unlikely that this year's withdrawals will match, placing March 1st storage above 2.2 Tcf," EnergyGPS said.

"Natural gas production continues to rise and is near a five-year high. The forecasts for the remainder of the winter continue to track below normal, with the exception of a short-lived cold snap this weekend. When we add all these factors, the current prompt month begins to feel heavy as production and storage remain robust and demand wanes. It also calls into question if we are near a tipping point in which the next bearish weather forecast could drive the price back down below $2."

Following a blast of cold expected to hammer New England and portions of the East, "Temperatures will gradually moderate early next week, with natural gas demand easing even as weather systems impact the Northwest and Northeast corners with rain, snow and colder temperatures," said Natgasweather.com in a noon Tuesday update. "This milder U.S. pattern will likely last from Feb. 16-21st before the next better opportunity for colder Canadian air arrives around Feb. 22-25th.  Overall, a relatively bullish setup over the Midwest and eastern U.S. through the weekend, but then becoming bearish as next week progresses due to dropping natgas demand."

In overnight Globex trading March crude oil gained 17 cents to $28.11/bbl and March RBOB gasoline added 3 cents to $0.9302/gal.

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