Natural gas futures were trading slightly higher early Monday after guidance trended somewhat cooler over the weekend, but forecasters continued to view the coming pattern as bearish overall. The May Nymex futures contract was up 2.5 cents to $2.515/MMBtu shortly after 8:30 a.m. ET.
Guidance over the weekend increased weather-driven demand expectations, adding some gas-weighted degree days (GWDD) to slightly improve the bearish forecast outlook from last week, according to Bespoke Weather Services.
“It’s still a low demand pattern, with GWDDs over the course of the next 15 days still more than 30 below normal, however, despite gaining about 7 GWDDs in our forecast since Thursday,” Bespoke said. “Going forward, models still depict quite a bit of anomalous upper level ridging across the U.S. out in early May,” which could potentially add a few cooling degree days in the southern half of the United States compared to “what models explicitly show.”
But total GWDDs would likely still remain slightly below normal due to reduced heating demand in the northern half of the country, the forecaster said.
NatGasWeather similarly highlighted “minor cooler changes over the weekend” focused on a system expected to move over the northern part of the Lower 48 next week. But overall, the forecaster said temperatures are expected to remain “exceptionally comfortable” into early May.
“To our view, any truly intimidating heat won’t begin to build until late May,” NatGasWeather said. “Until then, continued improvement in deficits should be expected, starting with this week’s build, where early market expectations currently favor it to print very close to last week’s at around 88-92 Bcf,” higher than the five-year-average 47 Bcf build.
The next several weekly inventory reports from the Energy Information Administration are also on track to come in above average and “well over” the 100 Bcf mark. Cumulatively, this run of larger injections could shrink the year-on-five-year-average deficit from more than 400 Bcf down to around 300 Bcf, NatGasWeather said.
Bearish weather trends last week left the May-November strip in a “precarious position,” according to EBW Analytics Group CEO Andy Weissman. Going back to last April, a “nearly unbroken string” of above-normal weather-driven demand has served to mask a “growing oversupply in the market,” but so far this shoulder season weather isn’t keeping pace with production growth.
“Warmer-than-normal weather during the second half of April and expectations for continued below normal demand during the first few weeks of May have finally broken this string, leading to a record early April injection last week and breaking support for the front-month contract just above $2.50 for the first time in nearly three years,” Weissman said.
“Prices could probe higher this morning in response to a modest gain in expected demand over the weekend. Any rebound is likely to be short-lived, however, as the market starts to focus on the potential for seven straight 100 Bcf-plus injections starting next week.”
May crude oil futures were up $1.63 to $65.63/bbl just after 8:30 a.m. ET, while May RBOB gasoline was up around 5.6 cents to $2.1283/gal.