February natural gas dipped slightly into the red early Thursday as the market continued to wait for more sustained cold weather. The Nymex February gas futures contract was trading at $2.922, down 3.6 cents, just before 9 a.m. ET.
The relatively small dip came after another minor move during Wednesday’s session, in which the prompt month rose about 2 cents despite a much warmer shift in weather models. Milder-trending weather data on both Monday and Wednesday resulted in a cumulative loss of more than 100 Bcf for the two days combined, according to EBW Analytics.
“Given the size of this loss, the market held up extremely well yesterday,” EBW CEO Andy Weissman said.
EBW attributed the market’s “impressive performance” partially to technical factors as $2.88 is a “huge support level which will not be easily broken.”
Continued forecasts for much colder weather in February and late January, however, also played an important role. “Unless and until forecasts for late January shift warmer, the February contract could continue to trade near yesterday's range,” Weissman said.
Overnight weather model guidance continued to remain mostly unimpressive for the next couple of weeks, with Global Ensemble Forecast System (GEFS) guidance (more commonly known as American guidance) losing a solid number of gas-weighted degree days (GWDD) while Ensemble Prediction System (EPS) guidance (European guidance) added a small number to finally begin to come a bit closer to a consensus, Bespoke Weather Services said.
“We did note that the pattern at the end of the GEFS finally began to look a bit more threatening,” Bespoke chief meteorologist Jacob Meisel said.
A weak positive Pacific North American/negative Eastern Pacific Oscillation pattern upstream seemed to attempt to combine with a weak negative North Atlantic Oscillation downstream to increase cold risks Week 3 on the American guidance, “even if it had not translated into real GWDDs yet.
“If models continue to trend in this direction, which EPS guidance made slight indications of as well, then we can see the more significant cold in the second half of January we are still watching for,” Meisel said.
Indeed, Weather Decision Technologies’ (WDT) Week 4 preview features normal or below-normal temperatures across the central and eastern United States, with current forecasts suggesting heating demand could increase 15 gas-heating degree days from Week 3 to Week 4 and potentially boost weather-driven gas consumption by 4.8 Bcf/d week/week.
“WDT's forecast, should it verify, could provide some support to beleaguered natural gas futures rocked by repeated bearish forecast shifts,” according to EBW’s Weissman.
Before then, however, warming “rather easily wins on out” with very significant warmth during the next week, limiting any kind of rally for natural gas prices, Meisel said.
Crude oil futures were trading around 80 cents higher at $47.36/bbl, and RBOB gasoline futures were trading about 3 cents higher at $1.36/gal.