After selling off late Tuesday and overnight on a warmer outlook from the major weather models, March natural gas futures were down 11.6 cents to $2.572/MMBtu shortly before 9 a.m. ET Wednesday.
Milder trends from European guidance prompted after hours selling Tuesday before overnight Global Forecast System (GFS) data failed to maintain its colder outlook, according to NatGasWeather. The forecaster said the overnight GFS trended “notably milder” by seeing a stronger ridge over the East Feb. 22-26 to better match the European data.
“The data is still very cold versus normal for much of the country this weekend through next week, it’s just the pattern after isn’t cold enough over the East as mild high pressure builds in,” NatGasWeather said. Guidance is sending “mixed messages on what will transpire to close out February,” with the GFS showing “cold returning across the East, while the European model favors the mild ridge holding strong over the East.
“With the natural gas markets selling off overnight, they are stating the burden is squarely on sustained cold driving much stronger than normal demand, and with the GFS backing off Feb. 21-26, they were immediately disappointed.”
In the nearer term, the recent colder trends in the weather models have Genscape Inc. looking for a few days of 110 Bcf/d-plus demand next week, according to the firm’s latest daily supply and demand forecasts.
“Lower 48 demand is expected to start ticking up by this weekend and crest the 100 Bcf/d mark,” Genscape senior natural gas analyst Rick Margolin said. “Currently, the forecast suggests demand could rise to a peak near 112 Bcf/d” by next Tuesday (Feb. 19).
Most of the gains are expected to occur in the Energy Information Administration’s East storage region, “where demand is forecast to add more than 4 Bcf/d by next Tuesday. “Midwest and South Central markets could see about 3 Bcf/d of additional demand, while Pacific and Mountain markets pick up 1-2 Bcf/d above current levels,” Margolin said.
From a technical standpoint, Monday’s trading saw the front month close above a downward sloping line in the daily chart that had contained the highs going back to last month, according to analysts with Rafferty Commodities Group. This created an opening for follow-through to the upside this week, the analysts said.
“Our first major resistance level is the $2.771 area where the market broke down,” the Rafferty team said. “...The $2.771 area is now pivotal one way or another. If the market can break and close beyond the $2.771 area, it would set the stage for an explosive rally. On the other hand if the market fails to approach or get through the $2.771 level, that would be a cue for us to take profits from Monday’s breakout.”
Heading into Wednesday’s trading, Rafferty pegged major support levels at $2.620/2.590/2.550.
March crude oil was trading 28 cents higher at $53.38/bbl early Wednesday, while March RBOB gasoline was up fractionally to $1.4303/gal.