With overnight forecasts mostly unchanged, natural gas futures were trading close to even early Friday. The April Nymex futures contract was flat at $2.812/MMBtu shortly after 8:30 a.m. ET.
Bespoke Weather Services saw “little change” to the outlook based on the overnight weather data, keeping gas-weighted degree day (GWDD) expectations roughly in line with forecasts as of Thursday afternoon.
“The overall theme remains that we see one of the coldest starts to March that we’ve seen in many years, but the shift in tropical forcing patterns means that we see changes by the middle of March that are likely to bring a milder pattern to much of the nation,” Bespoke said. “There is also risk that models are showing too much cold at the surface out in the 11-15 day time frame, given the changes already seen in the upper level pattern at that point in time.
“While we have often observed models to be too fast on calling pattern changes, we do believe that, from here, risk of GWDD losses is higher compared to risk of moving colder.”
Radiant Solutions noted a mix of adjustments to its latest six- to 10-day outlook, which showed widespread below-normal temperatures from the Midwest to the East.
“In the wake of a coastal storm and accompanying a nearby lobe of the polar vortex, the forecast trends slightly colder in New England during this time frame,” Radiant said. “However, storm-based variability brings warmer changes to Central. This remains a colder than normal period for most areas, as strong ridging over Alaska through at least the start of this period directs polar air southward.”
Meanwhile, in the 11-15 day period, “models over the past 24 hours lean colder...but in a pattern of increasing Pacific flow and model biases of late to be too cold, the forecast is mostly similar to previous expectations,” according to Radiant. “Below normal temperatures remain favored from the West to Central, while variability has temperatures being closer to normal overall farther east.”
The extreme cold weather currently making its way into the Lower 48 helped to strengthen cash prices at Henry Hub Thursday and push futures higher despite a bearish miss from the Energy Information Administration’s weekly storage report, EBW Analytics Group CEO Andy Weissman said.
By the middle of next week, when the coldest temperatures have passed, “day-ahead demand will start to decline, with a steep fall-off by Week 2,” Weissman said. “As this occurs, we expect natural gas prices to first level off and then start to erode, with the potential for a significant decline later in March.
“Even in the most bullish scenario, Nymex gas futures prices most likely will be at or near their peak during the next two to three trading sessions, with few if any bullish catalysts in sight.”
The EIA reported a 166 Bcf withdrawal from storage inventories for the week ending Feb. 22 that left stocks at 1,539 Bcf, 154 Bcf below last year and 424 Bcf below the five-year average. The reported draw compared with a year-ago draw of 85 Bcf and the five-year average draw of 104 Bcf.
April crude oil futures were trading 14 cents lower at $57.08/bbl just after 8:30 a.m. ET, while April RBOB gasoline was up fractionally to $1.7547/gal.