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Weather Outlook Steady Overnight as January Natural Gas Called Higher

January natural gas futures were trading 15.1 cents higher at $4.490/MMBtu shortly before 9 a.m. ET Tuesday, with the weather outlook mostly unchanged overnight for a market that continues to find support from storage concerns.

The overnight weather data was slightly colder while continuing to advertise a series of cold shots this week into early next week, with a mild break afterwards for the northern and eastern United States Dec. 11-15, according to NatGasWeather.

“A weather system tracking out of the central U.S. Dec. 16 is likely to weaken the ridge some as it tracks into the east-central U.S., although without any truly cold Canadian air being tapped, national demand will remain below normal,” NatGasWeather said. “...We continue to look for when stronger Canadian cold shots will return across the northern U.S., and the overnight data suggests the markets will need to wait until Dec. 19-20 for the next decent opportunity, although with more data still needing to come on board.

“No change bigger picture with weather patterns bullish the next seven days, then bearish after as a mild mid-December ridge sets up across the northern and eastern U.S., thereby providing opportunity for hefty deficits near or over 720 Bcf to finally improve, albeit likely only modestly.”

Meanwhile, the impact from November cold equates to an additional 1.4 Bcf/d call on storage throughout the heating season, according to Energy Aspects. The firm said in a recent note that its projected end-December carryout of just under 2.5 Tcf would see inventories end 2018 “still well below” where they stood in December 2013.

“Mild weather could easily pad our current balances toward an end-December carryout of 2.6-2.7 Tcf depending on the degree of that warmth,” Energy Aspects said. But warmth over the next few weeks “would have to be extreme for the market to sound the all clear. The deliverability cushion is still necessary to get market participants with physical exposure at least through the first half of February.

“At that point, assured of their ability to deliver gas from storage, utilities/local distribution companies and physical market players could rely less on physical market purchases, which are helping prop the cash market up at the moment, and instead begin relying on storage.”

But even with mild weather for December, the remainder of the heating season could still bring “significant cold” as late December “typically represents an inflection point” for gas-weighted heating degree days (GWHDD), according to Energy Aspects.

“Using Dec. 28 as a baseline, the last five years have seen an average of 30% higher GWHDDs in the two weeks immediately following that date than they have in the two weeks preceding it,” the firm said. “Such a dramatic spike this year in late December would likely erode any deliverability cushion and eliminate any storage buffer that a warmer-than-usual December might accumulate.”

On the supply side, Genscape Inc.’s Spring Rock Lower 48 production estimates have jumped more than 1 Bcf/d since last Monday, setting yet another record high, analyst Nicole McMurrer told clients Tuesday. On Friday, the firm said production had topped the 87 Bcf/d mark.

“We are seeing jumps across a number of regions, including increases of about 225 MMcf/d in East Texas, about 500 MMcf/d in Permian Texas, about 170 MMcf/d in Permian New Mexico, about 200 MMcf/d in West Virginia, about 225 MMcf/d in Northeast Pennsylvania and about 200 MMcf/d in the Gulf of Mexico,” McMurrer said.

January crude oil was trading 76 cents higher at $53.71/bbl shortly before 9 a.m. ET, while January RBOB gasoline was up about 3.8 cents to $1.4696/gal.

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