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May Called Lower as Forecast Seen Slightly Milder Overnight

May natural gas was set to open Wednesday about a penny lower at around $2.707 as the outlook for weather-driven demand over the next two weeks moderated slightly overnight.

May takes over as the prompt month on Wednesday after the April contract rallied 7.3 cents Tuesday to expire at $2.691.

NatGasWeather.com observed only small changes overnight in the forecast, but the firm noted that colder temperatures across the northern United States to start April should start to ease off by around April 9.

“Essentially, after April 8-9 the cold pool should either push back into Canada or gradually moderate toward more seasonal temperatures as reinforcing cold shots fizzle, while also becoming focused over the north central U.S. instead of the East,” the firm said. “To our view, the markets are likely to view the after April 8-9 pattern as milder/warmer trending as cold looks less likely to hold over the East.”

Bespoke Weather Services said the overnight guidance “trended a bit less impressive,” with European guidance losing “a modest number of gas-weighted degree days (GWDD) as cold through the medium-term trended less intense,” it said. “At times this was canceled out by warmer trends across the Gulf Coast introducing early season cooling demand, and we do expect to see sustained above average weather-driven demand into mid-April, though anomalies are looking a bit less impressive.

“...The May contract is falling back a bit on its first day as prompt as we see a lagging natural gas strip and slightly less impressive weather,” the firm said. “Expectations for Thursday’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) print are looking a bit less impressive as well, with decent burns one of the few supportive factors for prices now. Weather does still remain supportive overall,” but the overnight “GWDD losses will do little to help a market burdened by overproduction.”

Analysts with OPIS by IHS Markit on Tuesday said they expect EIA to report a 67 Bcf withdrawal from Lower 48 storage for the week ending March 23. This would be 19 Bcf looser than the prior week “owing to warmer weather across the Lower 48 and a significant decrease in heating demand.”

OPIS is forecasting an end-of-withdrawal season “inventory of 1.34-1.36 Tcf, or 340-360 Bcf” below the five-year average. This would “require an average summer injection of 11.5 Bcf/d” or about 3.5 Bcf/d more than last summer. “Growing production over the summer will diminish the inventory deficit and serve growing export demand as the summer unfolds.”

May crude oil was set to open about 56 cents lower at around $64.69/bbl, while April RBOB gasoline was trading fractionally higher at around $2.0146/gal.

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