The range-bound natural gas front-month futures were trading lower early Wednesday even as the latest weather guidance carried over significant colder trends from previous model runs. The April Nymex contract was off 3.7 cents to $2.837/MMBtu at around 8:40 a.m. ET.
Overnight data from the major weather models continued to show colder trends for next week and for the start of April, with the Global Forecast System (GFS) dropping a couple heating degree days (HDD) from the outlook and the European model adding some demand, according to NatGasWeather.
“Most importantly, all weather models have gained more than 25 HDDs so far on the week, with some datasets adding more than 30-35 HDDs,” the forecaster said. “Yet prices are flat on the week and again near $2.85, a level they keep returning to the past month.”
The latest cold shift in the forecast could delay the start of injection season by one week compared to previous expectations.
“...Most of the gains in HDDs have occurred with a stronger trending cold blast across the Great Lakes and East early next week. A mild break is expected across the East March 28-30 before additional weather systems and associated cold blasts track across the country March 30-April 2,” NatGasWeather said. “Due to rapid colder trends for next week, what was looking like the first build of the season has flipped back to a draw.”
Radiant Solutions noted colder changes for the eastern half of the Lower 48 in its six- to 10-day forecast Wednesday.
Citing “improved consistency within the European models” and colder trends from the GFS, the forecaster said the latest data “increases confidence that high pressure will support a round of below and much below normal temperatures through the eastern half.” But “the intensity of cold air is still a point of contention within the models and leaves overall confidence on the lower end of usual.”
Radiant pointed to a “mix of signals” in the 11-15 day outlook period, including a “colder correlating” negative Eastern Pacific oscillation “undercutting storm systems out of the Pacific and into the U.S.,” and a “warmer correlating” positive North Atlantic oscillation.
“In conjunction with model trends over the past 24 hours, the forecast leans cooler within the details,” Radiant said. “Low pressure tracking into the Midcontinent late in the six- to 10-day period will continue in its eastward track early in this period. Above-normal temperatures are found out ahead of this storm system, while belows are left in its wake.”
Technical factors, rather than forecast trends, may do a better job at explaining recent price action in the futures market, according to EBW Analytics Group CEO Andy Weissman, who said the April contract is caught in a technical trading range,.
“At first glance, trading of Nymex gas so far this week might seem odd. The explanation illustrates the power of computer-driven technical trading,” Weissman said. “Early Monday morning, after forecasts showed a loss in demand, prices headed lower. After the next major support level near $2.77 held, however, gas prices surged, reversing nearly all of the previous Friday’s price decline despite the loss in demand.”
During Tuesday’s trading, “just the reverse occurred,” with prices climbing after weather models increased demand expectations before major resistance held at $2.897, limiting gains, according to Weissman.
“This range-bound technical trading is likely to continue for several days, until support for a warm shift in the weather becomes clearer,” he said.
As of around 8:40 a.m. ET, April crude oil futures were down 60 cents to $58.43/bbl, while April RBOB gasoline was down about 1.0 cent to $1.8823/gal.