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Steady Forecast, Tight Storage as Natural Gas Futures Called Higher

September natural gas futures were set to open Tuesday about 1.9 cents higher at around $2.949/MMBtu, with forecasters noting only minor changes to the weather outlook overnight as a tight storage picture continued to offer support.

The European guidance came in slightly cooler overnight in the medium-range, while the Global Ensemble Forecast System trended warmer, showing less cooler weather coming in from the north, according to Bespoke Weather Services.

“Both these trends generally fit within the range of expected scenarios moving forward, as we see at least one broad cold front across the country focused around Aug. 23 that should pull cooling demand back to seasonal averages before we may gradually warm back up from there,” Bespoke told clients Tuesday. “Cooling demand modestly above average through the next two weeks is most likely, though the bulk of the heat still comes in the short-term.

“...With a strong strip and forecasts remaining consistent a short-term bounce remains very possible, at least into resistance from $2.95-2.96,” the firm said. “Even $2.98-3.00 is possible, though such a test is unlikely and would be a strong short opportunity, as the strip would likely deteriorate above $2.95” with limited heat in the forecast.

Given solid cooling demand and expectations for the Energy Information Administration to report another lean build Thursday, it isn’t a surprise the market failed to break through support at $2.92 during Monday’s session, according to EBW Analytics Group CEO Andy Weissman.

“Temperatures this week are still hotter than mid-summer norms; the drop-off in temperatures is still nearly two weeks away,” Weissman said. “Further -- and more significantly -- this week’s reported injection could be the smallest of the summer, discouraging traders from holding short positions.

“With support in place, resistance at $2.96 is likely to be tested again today or Wednesday. An effort to move even higher is not out of the question,” he said. With cooling degree days “expected to decline sharply later this month, however, absent a major storage surprise, natural gas is likely to head lower again soon.”

Looking at the technicals, natural gas is showing signs of pausing or peaking, according to ICAP Technical Analysis analyst Brian LaRose.

It’s “looking a little more ominous from a technical perspective,” LaRose said after Monday’s session. However, prices stayed above support at $2.899-2.891, “so we still see the potential for the September contract to probe the $3.018/3.019 highs. The bulls will need to act quickly, though, if that is where natural gas is heading.”

If the bulls can’t better $2.959 soon, then they should “expect a retracement of the move up from the $2.671/2.704 lows to get underway immediately,” LaRose said.

September crude oil was set to open about 81 cents higher at around $68.01/bbl, while September RBOB gasoline was trading about 3 cents higher at around $2.0448/gal.

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