December natural gas futures, set to expire Wednesday, were trading 17.1 cents higher at $4.433/MMBtu shortly before 9 a.m. ET, with forecast heating demand gains overnight setting the backdrop for a potentially volatile last day of trading for the contract.
January was trading 16.7 cents higher at $4.459 as forecasters pointed to greater intensity for a stretch of cold temperatures expected to start next week and extend through Dec. 10.
Bespoke Weather Services said colder trends in the Dec. 4-10 pattern resulted in a “modest” increase in its gas-weighted degree day (GWDD) forecast overnight.
“Additionally, Canadian guidance and to a lesser extent American guidance decreased long-range warm risks slightly, though they still showed an overall pattern progression that met expectations and indicated a rapid fall-off in GWDDs beyond Dec. 10,” Bespoke said. “...Of course, models can sometimes overdo the rate at which these patterns adjust, meaning warmth may only gradually roll forward in the coming couple of days, but the clear pattern change indicates that we still favor warmth through mid-December despite slight colder forecast changes overnight.”
The firm said it expects “extreme volatility” Wednesday ahead of the December contract’s expiry, but it still sees lower price risks for natural gas over the next week given the potential for long-range warmer temperatures in forecasts.
“Cash prices remain firm but should see at least some weakness with far less impressive weather-driven demand over the next few days,” Bespoke said. “This loosening combined with long-range warm risks should help keep prices in check even with very significant cold likely from Dec. 4-10.”
In its six- to 10-day outlook on Wednesday, Radiant Solutions said low pressure tracking across the eastern half of the country is now expected to be weaker.
“This brings a colder change to the Eastern Third in the mid-period,” the forecaster said. “However, warmer changes are made for portions of the West and Central, which comes out ahead of low pressure into California at mid-period and tracking toward the South Central late. Overall, below normal temperatures encompass most areas in the period composite, including much belows” in parts of the central United States. “Still colder risks remain in the presence of polar air flow.”
Radiant noted a mix of changes on Wednesday to its latest 11-15 day outlook.
“The overall pattern evolution remains, with below normal temperatures across a wide portion of North America to start the period giving way to warmer downslope winds off the Rockies and the emergence of aboves into the Midcontinent during the second half,” Radiant said.
In terms of the technicals, analysts with Rafferty Commodity Group said they would look for the January contract to break higher from a consolidation pattern that has formed following the highs set two weeks ago.
“The daily chart for January shows that since the market broke above the $3.938 area and made the high at $4.964, it has pulled back to form a bullish consolidation pattern,” the Rafferty team said. “This pattern is the market’s way of taking a breather after a good run to the upside. We favor the conclusion of this pattern with a break to the upside.”
January crude oil was trading 51 cents lower at $51.05/bbl shortly before 9 a.m. ET, while December RBOB gasoline was trading fractionally lower at around $1.4145/gal.