February natural gas was set to open Monday about 4 cents higher at around $3.225, with forecasters pointing to signs of cold developing in the long-range outlook.
"The overnight data was mixed between slightly milder and colder trends through Feb. 3," NatGasWeather.com said in a note to clients Monday. "However, the European model was a bit colder than the rest of the data on the pattern after Feb. 3 as it favored cold conditions covering a bit more of the northern U.S. than other models.
"The focus is still on if frigid Arctic air arriving over the Rockies and Plains Feb. 1-3 will spread south and east. The data has been flip-flopping the past few days whether this will take place, but the risk is to the colder side, especially with the European model back to being a bit colder in the overnight data" versus Sunday.
Bespoke Weather Services noted warmer changes to the medium-range guidance in the latest data.
The firm said it expects "added volatility for the natural gas market" as "traders attempt to price in both medium-term gas-weighted degree day (GWDD) losses and a long-range pattern that will likely continue to add" potential heating demand.
Still, Bespoke said it sees "enough GWDD losses over the next week and a half to pull natural gas prices back lower" despite the potential long-range cold.
"Cold risks have continued to increase into the middle of February," which "could easily open up further upside" for prices this week, the firm said. "Yet current forecasts do not show quite as much heating demand through the first week of February as we would think would be necessary to really rally prices."
From a technical standpoint, ICAP Technical Analysis analyst Brian LaRose said after Friday's $3.185 settlement that "bears can argue that the structure of the $2.568 to $3.288 advance is a completed ABC pattern. The problem is, bears need to force natural gas beneath $2.953-2.928 to validate their argument.
"Until and unless the bears make that happen the bulls have a shot at salvaging a greater recovery," LaRose said. "For that reason, we are forced to treat any pull back as corrective for now."
February crude oil was set to open about 5 cents lower Monday at around $63.32/bbl, while February RBOB gasoline was up fractionally at around $1.8653/gal.