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Near-Term Forecasts Seen Much Colder; April Natural Gas Called a Nickel Higher

April natural gas was set to open Monday about 4.9 cents higher at around $2.781 as forecasters pointed to a short- and medium-term weather outlook that they said turned much more supportive over the weekend.

Bespoke Weather Services said forecasts “trended significantly colder” versus Friday “as we saw models add far more demand than expected in the short-term. While an impressive thaw was previously expected March 16-18, model guidance over the weekend eliminated that, keeping far more cold weather in key heating demand regions through the next week.

“The result is an expectation that over the next 15 days heating demand is around to above average each day, with weak cooling demand beginning to work back into the forecast by the end of the time frame as well.”

In its six- to 10-day (March 17-21) forecast Monday, Radiant Solutions said the outlook trended “notably colder versus the Sunday update across the Midwest and East, especially early in the period. This comes with high pressure holding over the East longer at the onset, keeping temperatures below/much below normal.

“As the high moves out, less warming is projected ahead of the next shot of cold air, which looks to advance into the eastern half late,” Radiant said. “However, the forecast remains warm from Texas to the South and is warmer than guidance in Texas. Models disagree on the coverage/intensity of belows late with the forecast lying between the colder European and the warmer Global Forecast System.”

While prices were rallying early Monday on the forecast changes, Bespoke said strong production and the loosening suggested by last week’s Energy Information Administration storage number creates “a relative ceiling nearby for prices” even with the gains in projected heating demand.

“That being said, forecast differences appear significant enough to at least put $2.80-2.82 in play through the beginning of the week should they hold, and we see the short-term bias for prices towards the upside over the downside,” Bespoke said.

From a technical standpoint, ICAP Technical Analysis analyst Brian LaRose said Friday he views $2.774-2.797-2.823 as “an inflection point. So far this area of contention has proven to be formidable resistance. The question now, have we just witnessed the end of a corrective bounce or is the levitation merely taking a breather?

“If a greater recovery is on the horizon the ratio retracements associated with the $2.565 to $2.793 advance should be able to prevent natural gas from sinking to fresh lows,” LaRose said.

April crude oil was set to open about 51 cents lower at around $61.53/bbl, while April RBOB gasoline was down about 1.7 cents to around $1.8874/gal.

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