May natural gas was set to open Monday about 3 cents lower at around $2.709 as forecasters noted some warmer weather trends over the weekend, potentially giving the bears an advantage following last week’s price swings.

Last Thursday, the May contract dropped 7.9 cents after a bullish storage report before gaining all of that back the next session.

The up and down action to close out last week “revealed a strongly conflicted market,” with bears and bulls vying for control, according to EBW Analytics Group CEO Andy Weissman.

“The reasons for this sharp difference in views are easy to discern,” Weissman said. He sees a struggle, as the bulls believe that with a large gas storage deficit versus recent norms, “a significant price increase will be needed to refill storage this year. Bears believe just as fervently that, with production continuing to grow rapidly, the storage deficit will be quickly reduced.

“Near-term, it is not clear which side in the debate will have the upper hand this week,” he said. “A run-up to $2.85 and a retest of support at $2.62-2.65 are equally plausible. This struggle between bulls and bears could continue for several weeks.”

Changes in the weekend weather data “were a bit bearish for natural gas prices, as we lost a solid chunk of demand focused primarily in the medium- and long-range,” Bespoke Weather Services said. “Warmth looks likely to spread across the country a bit quicker than expected, with models now favoring ridging building in warmth by April 30 or May 1, while previously we had been looking for one final cold shot.

“...May natural gas prices opened strong Sunday evening but reversed back lower this morning as we have seen rather unimpressive weather and few bullish catalysts thus far,” the firm said. “With weather-driven demand likely to fall off through the week we would look for lagging cash prices” and “less impressive weather into early May” to put downward pressure on the front of the strip.

In terms of technicals, the bulls accomplished what they needed to Friday, according to ICAP Technical Analysis analyst Brian LaRose.

“Bulls needed to engineer an immediate turn higher from the $2.657-2.651 vicinity to keep the case alive for another visit to the $2.820-2.846 neighborhood. They got the job done,” LaRose said. “Now the bears are the ones with their backs against the wall. To derail the case for a choppy grind to $2.820-2.827-2.846, the bears must prevent $2.762-2.768-2.770 from being exceeded, then take out $2.614-2.613-2.610-2.600.”

June crude oil was set to open about 96 cents lower at around $67.44/bbl, while May RBOB gasoline was down about 1.8 cents at around $2.0781/gal.