Although forecasters pointed to a warmer shift in guidance over the weekend, natural gas futures were steady in early Monday trading. As of 8:30 a.m. ET, the May Nymex contract was up 0.9 cents to $2.673/MMBtu.
Bespoke Weather Services highlighted a “notable jump warmer” in the weekend weather models. The warmer shift stemmed in part from an “increase in the amount of Pacific flow coming in,” associated with the background El Nino-Southern Oscillation state. The forecaster also noted a “weaker trend in the projected blocking” in the six- to 10-day window that dropped several gas-weighted degree days from the outlook for that period compared to Friday’s expectations.
“Sentiment sits at neutral again this morning,” Bespoke said. “Production remained stable over the weekend, though stays a little off the highs we saw last weekend when it reached record levels.” Liquefied natural gas (LNG) “exports have slipped a little more yet again this morning” amid ongoing maintenance at Cheniere Energy Inc.’s Sabine Pass terminal.
“All of this is contributing to very weak storage scrapes despite some tightening observed in the adjusted burn data in the second half of last week. This tightening of burns is to be expected given how much prices have fallen, but LNG exports need to ramp back up in order to see overall balances tighten back up. It is unclear when this will occur at this time, which is part of why we stay ‘neutral’ this morning, given the uncertainty.”
NatGasWeather similarly pointed to weekend guidance that walked back some of the mid-April colder trends that showed up in forecasts last week.
“The coming pattern is still expected to be quite active going into late April with periods of cooler than normal conditions across the western, central and northern U.S.,” according to the forecaster. But the latest guidance was “not quite as cold with a weather system next weekend,” and the data offered a clearer view on a “mild break between cool shots across the Great Lakes/Ohio Valley and East April 16 and April 18.”
Given that the market has been more sensitive to warmer trends versus cooler trends over the past couple months, the weekend guidance could present downside risks for prices heading into Monday’s trading, NatGasWeather said.
Firmer cash prices at Henry Hub and some cooler forecast trends late last week helped the May contract bottom out at a higher level this past Friday than EBW Analytics Group CEO Andy Weissman had been expecting. However, guidance over the weekend “took an abrupt 180-degree turn” that reduced Week 2 heating demand expectations “significantly” compared to estimates from late last week.
“Model runs, which have been struggling with a complex blocking pattern in the West, could continue to be erratic early this week,” Weissman said. “Remaining cold air in Canada, however, is limited. Absent another major model guidance shift early this week, the May contract is likely to trade in a narrow range before it begins to falter again.”
May crude oil futures were trading 24 cents higher at $63.32/bbl at around 8:30 a.m. ET, while May RBOB gasoline was up about a penny to $1.9793/gal.