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Market Still Groping For Bottom; March Called 2 Cents Lower

March natural gas is set to open 2 cents lower Friday morning at $1.83 as weather forecasts continue the trend of moderation with little in the way of market-moving developments on the horizon. Overnight oil markets fell.

Gas buyers for power generation across the MISO footprint should have abundant wind generation Friday but will likely be augmenting that power with purchases for the balance of the weekend, according to forecaster WSI Corp.

"An area of low pressure will continue to traverse the northern tier today with a little light rain, mix and snow," the forecaster said. "A strong south to west-northwest wind will pump anomalous warmth into the region during the next couple of days. High temps will range in the 30s, 40s and 50s north; 60s and 70s south. A cold front will begin to sag southward during Sunday into Monday with a chance of rain and snow showers. This will usher colder, more seasonable conditions into the power pool early next week with highs in the 20s, 30s and 40s north; upper 40s, 50s and 60s south.

"The frontal system will lead to high winds and strong wind generation [Friday]. Total output is forecast to peak 10-12 GW. Wind generation will abruptly decrease during Saturday and remain relatively light into the start of next week."

Analysts still see the bottom open relative to futures markets. "Updates to the short-term temperature views still appear bearish with above-normal temperatures spread broadly across the western half of the U.S.," said Jim Ritterbusch of Ritterbusch and Associates in a note to clients. "As a result of these weather forecasts, it would appear that additional major expansion in the supply surplus lies ahead."

Ritterbusch sees Thursday's storage at 2,706 Bcf and that combined with "an unusually mild March eventually resulting in an end-of-season supply that could easily approach 2.3 Tcf. In the background, an ongoing tendency toward price-induced coal-to-gas substitution is still being overwhelmed by a recent upswing in production out of the prolific eastern region. And while the recent accelerated decline in the rig counts has helped to slow price declines, it has not yet been able to drive a bottom into this market.

"Another round of lows would appear to set up further declines to the lows in the January 2016 futures that were established in December at the $1.68 area. However, we are viewing this level as out of reach assuming normal temperature trends across the month of March. For now, we will suggest acceptance of profits at the 1.91 level per April futures that would imply a gain of around 30 cents from suggested entry point. From there, we will await a price advance back into the 2.00-2.10 zone to re-establish a bearish holding."

In overnight Globex trading March crude oil fell 85 cents to $29.92/bbl and March RBOB gasoline fell a penny to $0.9654/gal.

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