May natural gas was set to open Tuesday about 3 cents lower at around $2.666 as forecasters pointed to mixed changes overnight in the outlook for April.
The early morning trading action comes after an afternoon rally Monday that saw the front month recover from around 5 cents down to finish near even.
“The overnight Global Forecast System (GFS) trended back a little milder, while the rest of the data was a touch cooler, but still not nearly as cold as the GFS,” NatGasWeather.com said. “Thus, mixed trends but still a rather cool northern U.S. pattern next week into the following, while mild to warm over the southern half of the country.” The firm continues to view $2.72 as a critical area for bulls and bears to try to control.
The overnight guidance “continued to tick demand expectations higher even after some very impressive afternoon guidance” on Monday, according to Bespoke Weather Services. “We still see weather as extremely supportive for natural gas prices, with models homing in on the cold shot around April 15-16 that should deliver the final major heating demand spike of the year across the country.”
Long-range guidance suggests cold could stick around “just slightly longer,” but demand should be less impressive due to seasonality, according to the firm. The strip was “looking a bit more supportive as well” on Tuesday morning, Bespoke said. “This comes with increased nuclear outages as we approach peak maintenance season and weather forecasts that are about as bullish as possible for this time of year.”
Nuclear Regulatory Commission data showed a “spike in the number of Lower 48 nuclear outages” over the weekend, according to Portland, OR-based analytics firm Energy GPS.
“From Thursday into Monday the total moved up from 15 to 22 GW. The next two weeks usually mark the peak of the spring outage season,” Energy GPS said. “...The increased outage total and ongoing cold weather throughout the Midcontinent and Northeast has taken the net load throughout the country up to 413 GW. That is 50 GW higher than what was recorded for April 2017.
“After this week we will see a big drop in the net load as we will be on the downside of both the nuclear outage schedule and heating degree day curve.”
In terms of technicals, “with natural gas bouncing sharply off the dense band of support stretching from $2.643 to $2.600 the bulls can argue that an a-b-c correction off the $2.764 high has come to an end,” according to ICAP Technical Analysis analyst Brian LaRose.
The one way to validate the claim, LaRose said, is to “force natural gas above $2.735-2.737-2.746-2.747-2.753,” and there is “no reason to raise the bar until and unless resistance can be exceeded.”
May crude oil was set to open about $1.04 higher at around $64.46/bbl, while May RBOB gasoline was trading about 2.4 cents higher at around $2.0080/gal.