March natural gas is expected to open a dime lower Friday morning at $3.04 as more deferred weather forecasts moderate further. Overnight oil markets rose.

Weather forecasts turned still more moderate overnight. "The already warm dominated [11-to 15-day] forecast trends additionally warmer today, featuring a coverage of much above normal temperatures across most of the eastern half," said MDA Weather Services in its Friday morning report to clients. "This comes in a period influenced by the MJO [Madden Julian Oscillation] tracking through phase one, a phase which has produced similar pattern themes as is forecast in other cases seen this winter. The American model, however, remains a less-warm scenario, but this is likely a bias relating to the MJO and overphasing of upper-level features.

"Low pressure is expected to track across the country; and despite weakened heights left in its wake, cold air is lacking with this system. Low pressure's passage across the country could offer a brief cold risk, but a connection to a colder source region is lacking. Bias correcting European model data argues for an even warmer eastern half."

Traders see a market void of trading opportunities.

"The market appears more focused on forward EIA reports where [Thursday's] surplus contraction is apt to be followed by a renewed expansion in the overhang next week that should be followed by additional stretch in the surplus," said Jim Ritterbusch of Ritterbusch and Associates in closing comments Thursday.

"This dynamic of an expanding overhang to being accompanied by a lack of significant cold weather in reliable forecasts that are now stretching out to about the 23rd of this month. This is why nearby futures were unable to test nearest chart resistance at the $3.20-3.22 region. Until one last hurrah of sustainable cold temps shows up within the short-term forecasts, this market could contain to about the $3.00-3.20 zone.

"We still see the $3 support as vulnerable as we leave open the possibility of an eventual price drop into the $2.80-2.90 zone. However, we are still not seeing enough of a rally to support a short position and, as a result, we will maintain a sideline stance for now.”

In overnight Globex trading March crude oil gained 79 cents to $53.79/bbl and March RBOB gasoline rose 3 cents to $1.5996/gal.