February natural gas is expected to open 6 cents lower Thursday morning at $3.84 even though weather forecasters call for a second round of cold in about two weeks. Overnight oil markets were mixed.
Weather models continued to call for not only one invasion of cold air, but also a second incursion in about two weeks. "The coldest period over the next two weeks is now sitting on the fence between the six-10 day and 11-15 day periods," said Matt Rogers, president of Commodity Weather Group, in a Thursday morning report to clients. "From day eight Thru to day 11, Sunday of next week, we should have an impressive coast-to-coast colder than normal pattern situation. Those days also straddle two different EIA [Energy Information Administration] periods.
"During this time, cold could be impressive in many locations, but it is rare to get such broad geographic coverage (missing only mainly Florida). The models then debate the degree of moderation by the middle 11-15 day as they set up for a reload situation. We show some modest re-warming for especially south and east during the middle 11-15 day and then start sending down cold chunk number two into the Midwest/Plains by late period. High-latitude blocking indications, including a strengthening negative Western Pacific Oscillation, supports a second surge of colder weather into the Midcontinent by late period."
Last week, a stout 209 Bcf was pulled from storage and this week calls for no less. If Rogers' forecasts are correct, 200+ Bcf draws may become commonplace. For the week ended Dec. 23 estimates are swirling around a 220 Bcf withdrawal. Last year 50 Bcf was withdrawn and the five-year pace stands at 80 Bcf.
The range on this week's estimates is high. IAF Advisors calculates a withdrawal of 227 Bcf, and industry consultant Bentek Energy, utilizing its flow model, is looking for a 238 Bcf decline. A Reuters survey of 16 traders and analysts revealed a sample mean of 222 Bcf with a range from -198 Bcf to -243 Bcf.
Analysts remain optimistic for Q1 pricing. "With weather-adjusted balances tight and weather uncertainty high, heightened volatility is to be expected," said PIRA Energy in a report Tuesday. "Headwinds loom in the form of more challenging year-on-year weather comparisons in January, but the prospect for prices to reach new highs in 1Q17 remains high."
In overnight Globex trading February crude oil fell 13 cents to $53.93/bbl and February RBOB gasoline rose 2 cents to $1.6938/gal.