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Overnight Forecasts Seen Colder to Mid-April; May Natural Gas Called Higher

May natural gas was set to open Friday about 2 cents higher at around $2.696 as forecasters noted colder trends overnight in the outlook for mid-April.

Bespoke Weather Services called the overnight forecast “significantly colder” on the strength of the European model showing “one last impressive cold shot” moving into the center of the country around April 15 “that would be able to linger through the long range.”

“The result will be gas-weighted degree days very significantly above average both in the short and in the long-term,” Bespoke said. “However, the pattern does appear unsustainable, with indications that past April 20 it should break down with warmth at least gradually returning.

“...Overnight cold trends on guidance are quite impressive, and given expected cash strength off short-term cold as well it is quite possible that prices attempt one quick higher run,” the firm said. But “we continue to see Thursday’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) print as quite loose, limiting any sort of sustained upside for prices moving forward.”

NatGasWeather.com viewed the overnight data as “slightly milder trending on the front end, but a little colder trending on the back end.” Overall, it said, there is “likely” to be “colder trending due to a system into the East around April 18-20.

“...So here we are yet again with prices failing to deviate very far from $2.72 on the front month,” the firm said. “Clearly a battle is taking place between Lower 48 state production continuously setting fresh record highs versus deficits in supplies soon to increase to near or greater than 400 Bcf due to the current cool pattern.”

EIA reported a net decrease of 29 Bcf for Lower 48 gas stocks for the week ending March 30, but the figure came with an asterisk. In a footnote, the agency said the implied flow for the week was actually a withdrawal of 20 Bcf, with “nonflow-related adjustments” accounting for a 9 Bcf decrease in inventories in the South Central Nonsalt region for the period.

Including the net 9 Bcf decrease because of reclassification, total working gas in underground storage stood at 1,354 Bcf as of March 30, versus 2,051 Bcf a year ago and five-year average inventories of 1,701 Bcf, according to EIA.

“This week’s draw of 29 Bcf was a bit misleading due to 9 Bcf of nonflow-related adjustments -- the implied number was 20 Bcf, which came in below the lowest Street estimate,” analysts with Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co. said Friday. “Henry Hub ended the day down 2% as the draw implied a stronger than expected shift to weather-adjusted oversupply, though there could be some noise in the number” from the Good Friday holiday.

“Next week could still see some messiness from the weekend, but look for the market to still lean oversupplied through April.”

May crude oil was set to open Friday about 42 cents lower at around $63.12, while May RBOB gasoline was trading fractionally lower at around $1.9755/gal.

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