January natural gas futures were down 4.1 cents to $4.447/MMBtu shortly before 9 a.m. ET Monday, with forecasters noting milder trends over the weekend, but there are hints of cold returning later this month.

After coming in milder than the rest of the data on Friday, the European weather model maintained milder trends from for Dec. 15-22 over the weekend, according to NatGasWeather, which said the other models trended warmer to better align with the European guidance.

“However, there are several weather models that tease colder air finally breaking the mild ridge across the northern and eastern U.S. around Dec. 23-25, although inconsistent and with much to prove,” the forecaster said.

“...Going forward, the focus is now on when this milder overall pattern that sets up Dec. 14-22 will end and whether colder patterns can gain momentum for the last week of December, as many of the datasets tease by pushing cold over the West into the central and eastern U.S. If this were to occur, weather sentiment would trend from bearish to neutral or bullish around Dec. 24.”

Bespoke Weather Services noted “modest” gains to its gas-weighted degree day (GWDD) expectations in the short-range over the weekend, but this was countered by “broad losses” in the medium- and long-range.

The forecaster said models trended more clearly toward a negative Eastern Pacific Oscillation (EPO) by Christmas Day, but while also showing GWDDs “running below average through then like expected. Additionally, European guidance shows how eastern ridging could try and linger a bit longer even with the initial negative EPO arrival.

“These pattern flips are often rushed by the models and do take time, meaning the arrival of cold can still get delayed a bit more through the week, and we are looking for some very strong warmth before then, which can keep GWDDs significantly below average before we finally cool back down Week 3.”

Bespoke said it sees markets as “ready to break out higher on the first real sustained, higher confidence signs of cold in the long-range...With long-range cold shots likely to fail or be rushed by models, we would look for short-term downside at least early in the week for the January contract before any real cold risks can sustain.”

Looking at the technicals, analysts with Rafferty Commodities Group have pegged major resistance levels at $4.660 and $4.900, with minor resistance at $4.630. The firm has listed major support levels at $4.175 and $4.015, with minor support at $4.360 and $4.200.

A daily chart of last week’s trading “highlights the sideways price action back and forth,” the Rafferty team said. “We view the consolidation pattern as bullish consolidation, or the market’s way of taking a breather from the steep climb after breaking above the $3.938 area.”

January crude oil was trading 97 cents lower at $51.64/bbl shortly before 9 a.m. ET, while January RBOB gasoline was down about 2.4 cents to $1.4622/gal.