With forecasts alternating between cooler and warmer trends, and with analysts viewing natural gas as fairly valued at recent prices, futures were trading close to even early Tuesday. The May Nymex futures contract was off 0.2 cents to $2.706/MMBtu shortly after 8:30 a.m. ET.
Forecast trends have been shifting back-and-forth recently, according to Bespoke Weather Services, which viewed the overnight guidance as “significantly warmer,” reversing colder trends in data issued Monday afternoon.
Bespoke said the overnight data showed a weaker downstream negative North Atlantic Oscillation block that would allow “slightly more ridging in the East even with a few cold shots moving through over the next few weeks. This keeps early season cooling demand at bay while limiting the extent of northern heating demand.”
The result would be gas-weighted degree day totals that “do run slightly above the five-year average but still slightly lag seasonal averages and certainly last year,” Bespoke said.
Bespoke said its sentiment heading into Tuesday’s trading remained at neutral, with prices fairly valued at current levels but with risk skewed slightly to the downside.
“Cash around $2.70 surprised strong yesterday though that appeared due to heat across the South that is moving out of the region today,” the forecaster said. Meanwhile, data as of early Tuesday showed liquefied natural gas exports “remaining near lows as power burns are easing off and Canadian imports are growing again.
“This weaker cash can rather easily drag down the front of the natural gas curve under the $2.70 level, and these loose balances” with another loose number expected from this week’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) storage report “should keep a cap on prices around $2.75.”
Energy Aspects issued a preliminary estimate for a 33 Bcf injection for the EIA report, which covers the week ended April 5.
“Shoulder season is firmly underway,” the firm told clients in a recent note. “As expected, flush production following freeze-offs and maintenance at Sabine Pass Train 1 and Train 2 are setting the market up for lackluster cash pricing.”
The firm’s balances as of late last week showed production in line with peak weekly supply volumes observed in late December, and this comes as “Appalachia still has not recovered to its pre-freeze-off baseline.”
Based on recent production growth, Energy Aspects viewed the market as “looser year/year by a whopping 7.5 Bcf/d” for last week.
“However, this looseness reduces to just 2.5 Bcf/d year/year if adjustments are made for the Sabine outage and assume similar weather year/year,” according to the firm. “Moving forward, the major question for the balances is whether the looseness can be reduced by new demand projects or exacerbated by further production growth. At least in the shoulder season, unless demand spikes on warmer-than-normal weather, balances are looking loose.”
May crude oil futures were down 17 cents to $64.23/bbl just after 8:30 a.m. ET, while May RBOB gasoline was up fractionally to $1.9968/gal.