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Natural Gas Futures Called Lower as Weekend Forecasts Maintain Mid-December Warmth

January natural gas futures were trading 31.5 cents lower at $4.297/MMBtu shortly before 9 a.m. ET Monday as forecasts over the weekend maintained expectations for a stretch of milder temperatures starting next week.

Guidance over the weekend saw only “subtle changes,” continuing to advertise a series of cold shots expected to sweep through starting this week, with a mild break to follow from Dec. 12-16, according to NatGasWeather

“Mild high pressure is still expected to gain in coverage and strength across the central and southern U.S. Dec. 11-12, then into the East Dec. 13-16, easing national demand as temperatures warm above normal,” the forecaster said. “We continue to expect the mid-December northern and eastern U.S. ridge to first be tested by weather systems coming out of the Plains around Dec. 16-17.

“If the ridge shows signs of weakening or shifting, the markets could see this as somewhat bullish. However, if the mild ridge proves it will hold strong to keep a milder than normal pattern over the northern and eastern U.S. through Dec. 20, the markets are going to be disappointed.”

Forecaster Radiant Solutions noted only small changes for its latest six- to 10-day forecast.

“This period remains one of transition as a trough deepens over Alaska and locks out the Arctic source region,” Radiant said. “Below and much below normal temperatures, however, are common across the eastern half at the start of the period and expected to linger through late period along the East Coast.”

Radiant’s latest 11-15 day forecast “remains a warmer than normal one in this period, with changes being additionally warmer in the early half along the East Coast” compared to Sunday’s outlook. “Although, a trough progressing through leads a colder change to the southern half in the latter stages.” Overall the period should see “widespread coverage of above normal temperatures in the eastern two thirds and near normal West.”

Bespoke Weather Services similarly viewed the weekend guidance as generally trending as expected, with the long-range warmth from previous forecasts shifting into the medium-range.

“We began to see how the warmer pattern through mid-December could break with a trough across the middle of the country, allowing colder air in the South, though this classic El Nino-like pattern would likely struggle to deliver much Arctic air or even bring colder air to the North,” Bespoke said. “Thus the long-range view still appears slightly tilted bearish even if the more significant warmth of from Dec. 12-17 does not look to dominate through the final third of December.”

Pointing to recent data showing production setting new record highs, the firm said it sees gas overvalued above $4.50. “Balances outside of significant cold are clearly quite loose, and we are looking for them to only tighten marginally with cold this week,” Bespoke said.

January crude oil was trading $2.39 higher at $53.32/bbl, while January RBOB gasoline was about 5.7 cents higher at $1.4592/gal.

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