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March Natural Gas Called Higher as Forecasters Eye Mid-February Arctic Chills

March natural gas was set to open Tuesday about 7 cents higher at around $3.239, with forecasters still pointing to cold risks looking ahead to the middle of February.

NatGasWeather.com said a cold blast should hit the northern and eastern United States over the weekend and into early next week before a break around Feb. 7-10, though with the data mixed on “how far the frigid Arctic pool retreats northward back into Canada.

“...For the important Feb. 11-14 period, the latest data continues to show decent potential for the cold pool over South Canada to push back across the border into the Midwest and Northeast for strong demand.”

The firm noted some model disagreement for the Feb. 11-14 period, “with the European not quite as chilly this round, but with the Global Forecast System (GFS) further colder. Clearly some weather model differences where either the GFS is too cold, or the European isn’t quite cold enough, which will likely become apparent in Tuesday’s midday and afternoon data.”

Radiant Solutions said its 11-15 day forecast Tuesday “has a small colder lean nationally...with colder changes from the West to Central outweighing a warmer East Coast. Otherwise, the overall themes from the previous outlook remain with a full latitude ridge from the Gulf of Alaska through the Arctic keeping a cold air flow directed into the Eastern Half.

“This is a setup supported by the Madden-Julian oscillation as it propagates from phase 7 toward phase 8, but a still larger spread between models with the intensity of cold from the Plains points East leaving confidence on the lower side of usual,” Radiant said.

March takes over as the prompt month after the February contract surged ahead of expiration Monday to roll off the board at $3.631, up 12.6 cents. That's the most expensive natural gas futures contract expiration since the January 2017 contract expired at $3.930.

“Technically speaking, the bulls are still in control,” said ICAP Technical Analysis analyst Brian LaRose after Monday’s close. “However, with the February contract expiring we must now determine whether or not March can pick up where February left off. To have a shot at keeping the advance alive the bulls will need to get the March contract above $3.196-3.228 next.

“Sink below $3.040-3.035 instead and we will be forced to reevaluate the downside risk from here,” he said.

Looking at the gap between the February and March contracts, analysts with Rafferty Commodities Group said March “shows a similar bullish picture but at lower levels.

“...We remain bullish on this market, especially after last week’s breakout of the long-term consolidation pattern...only a close below major support would cause a change in our outlook,” the analysts said.

March crude oil was set to open about 62 cents lower at around $64.94/bbl, while February RBOB gasoline was down about 1.9 cents to around $1.9160/gal.

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