With forecasters reporting a mix of changes to the weather outlook over the holiday weekend, March Nymex natural gas futures were trading close to even shortly before 9 a.m. ET Tuesday, down 1.1 cents to $2.614/MMBtu.
The April contract was trading around $2.646, down 1.0 cent from Friday’s settle.
Weather model guidance over the weekend advertised warmer trends in the short term but also showed a greater chance for cold to develop in the medium- and long-range outlook periods, resulting in a net increase in gas-weighted degree day expectations, according to Bespoke Weather Services.
Bespoke said models moved “more convincingly” toward an upstream negative Eastern Pacific Oscillation and positive Pacific North American teleconnection combination that “could spread intense cold into the Midwest and eventually East. This fits with our expectations,” given upstream Madden-Julian oscillation propagation, “and allows us to likely see very significant cold through the first third of March.
“From there we are concerned the pattern breaks down and we moderate into mid-March, but we have at least a few weeks of risk skewed solidly colder before we would look for temperatures to finally normalize sustainably.”
A colder-than-normal March could help to relieve some downward pressure on prices during the upcoming injection season, according to Energy Aspects.
“Under a 10% colder-than-normal scenario for March, combined residential/commercial and industrial heating demand would increase by just under 2 Bcf/d, with power sector gas demand likely to grow nearly 3 Bcf/d versus our estimate under 10-year normal weather,” the consulting firm said. “Given the heating and power impacts, the end-March storage carryout would be around 1.1 Tcf.”
Freeze-offs could push that carryout figure even lower, Energy Aspects said. Meanwhile, a 5% colder-than-normal scenario for March would put end-March carryout at 1.2 Tcf.
“Our balances still point to just under 7.0 Bcf/d of production growth year/year in injection season 2019 and marginal growth in power sector demand of 0.2 Bcf/d year/year, assuming a reversion to 10-year normal weather over the season,” according to the firm. “With other demand growth sources also moderate compared to supply, our end-October 2019 storage carry is now more than 3.7 Tcf.
“A cold March, while not setting up next winter for the potential scarcity concerns seen in the 2018/19 winter, would have the potential to lower the end-October carryout and could dampen the degree of what has appeared to be pervasively bearish sentiment.”
Looking at the technicals, analysts with Rafferty Commodities Group observed that March prices failed to follow through to the upside last week after breaking above a downward sloping in the daily chart that had contained the highs going back to last month.
“The market pulled back, but it has held the $2.547 level where we have drawn a horizontal support line,” the Rafferty analysts said. “...The $2.547 area forms the lower end of the consolidation pattern between $2.547 and $2.771.”
Heading into Tuesday’s trading, the Rafferty team pegged $2.547 and $2.525 as major support levels. The firm listed minor resistance levels at $2.637 and $2.770, with major resistance at $2.835, $2.870 and $2.920.
March crude oil futures were trading 52 cents higher at $56.11/bbl early Tuesday, while March RBOB gasoline was trading fractionally lower at $1.5688/gal.