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Weather Models Positive, Yet May Called Flat

May natural gas is set to open unchanged Wednesday morning at $3.15 as traders factor in moderately supportive weather with conflicting long-term price views. Overnight oil markets gained.

Overnight weather model runs showed increased heating load. "[Wednesday's] six-10 day period forecast is generally cooler than yesterday's forecast across the northern tier and Midwest but warmer over the southwestern U.S.," said WSI Corp. in its morning report to clients.

"GWHDDs are up 3.2 to 43.3, which are 12.2 below average. CONUS PWCDDs are 11.9 for the period.

"Forecast confidence is only average at the very best. Medium-range models are in relatively good agreement and have shown some consistency with the general pattern, but there is spread and inherent uncertainty with an active zonal storm track."

Current weather conditions may not be encouraging to market bulls, but Tuesday the Energy Information Administration's estimated 2017 average Henry Hub spot price, which had tumbled 12% in the agency's March Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO), would increase. The April report forecast that Henry Hub spot prices would rise to $3.10/MMBtu, a 2.2% increase compared with the previous forecast.

The 2018 Henry Hub spot price is expected to average $3.45/MMBtu, EIA said in its latest STEO, which was released Tuesday. That's unchanged from the previous STEO forecast. The price increase next year will come thanks primarily to new natural gas export capabilities and growing domestic gas consumption, EIA said.

Not everyone is buying into the forecast for higher prices. Analysts with Raymond James & Associates Inc. have predicted the reverse of EIA's forecast, with 2017 prices higher and 2018 prices lower. The group bases its downward trend on faster-than-anticipated growth in supply, along with surprising gains in renewable power generation capacity. This is expected to displace more demand than forecast only four months ago. In early January analysts had said U.S. gas prices were poised for the best prices in 2017 since 2014. Now, however, while they are maintaining their 2017 forecast of $3.25/Bcf, the 2018 estimate has been slashed to $2.75 from $3.50 and the long-term forecast reduced to $2.75 from $3.00.

Raymond James analysts in a note Monday said burgeoning domestic gas supply growth beginning in the back half of 2017 and into 2018, coupled with the outlook for demand drivers and the rise of renewables, will negatively impact Henry Hub price forecasts.

Indications are that this week's storage report will come in at around a 9 to 10 Bcf increase. The Desk Early View survey of 13 traders and analysts found the average was 9 Bcf with a range of plus-5 Bcf to plus-15 Bcf. Last year 1 Bcf was withdrawn, and the five-year average is for at 12 Bcf build, according to The Desk.

Tom Saal, vice president at FCStone Latin America in Miami, in his work with Market Profile expects the market to test Tuesday's value area at $3.172 to $3.144. "Maybe" the market will test a second value area at $3.254 to $3.234, he said in a morning report to clients.

In overnight Globex trading May crude oil rose 22 cents to $53.62/bbl and May RBOB gasoline gained fractionally to $1.7623/gal.

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