Natural gas futures were trading several cents lower early Monday, with prices weighed down by a cooler-trending forecast even as analysts pointed to a net bullish impact from former Tropical Storm Barry. The August Nymex futures contract was off 3.1 cents to $2.422/MMBtu shortly after 8:30 a.m. ET.
Cooler changes to the medium-range outlook offset some hotter changes over the next week or so, resulting in a net cooler trending forecast compared to Friday’s expectations, according to Bespoke Weather Services.
“This near-term heat remains very strong, with a little less demand destruction from what’s left of Tropical Storm Barry than anticipated, plus some additional hotter changes once the storm’s remains are out of the picture,” Bespoke said. This is enough to push daily gas-weighted degree day totals to “near-record levels late this week into the weekend.
“After that, however, we see a stronger upper level trough moving into the eastern half of the nation...Given the totality of the balance data as well as the current weather projections, we are not surprised to see prices lower this morning, though cash prices could be firm enough for a bounce later this morning.”
Barry inundated the Gulf Coast over the weekend, with the storm strengthening into a hurricane before making landfall over Louisiana Saturday. As of early Monday morning, Barry had weakened to a tropical depression and was moving slowly through Arkansas, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co. (TPH) analysts said natural gas prices “could catch a bid this week,” as the impacts from the storm have resulted in a net tightening of the market, with production losses overshadowing cuts to liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports.
“We indicated earlier that hurricane impacts could go either way, with supply interruptions in a tug-of-war versus LNG feed gas demand,” the TPH analysts said. “As it stands, supply impacts are winning the battle, with field receipts showing supply down about 2.3 Bcf/d as feed gas looks un-impacted, posting a record 6.5 Bcf/d” for Sunday.
“Demand from LNG projects pared back on Thursday, dropping to 5.2 Bcf/d, but has increased sequentially every day since, largely driven by Sabine Pass returning to 3.7 Bcf/d after dipping to 2.9 Bcf/d on Thursday. Outside the eye of the storm, Corpus Christi hit record demand of 1.4 Bcf/d, and Freeport showed signs of life, taking gas for the first time since late May.”
Similarly, EBW Analytics Group called the market’s concerns about Barry’s demand destruction “overblown.” Aside from the limited LNG impacts, EBW’s CEO Andy Weissman noted that “the effect of heavy rains on demand is already baked into our forecast. Further, lost demand has been largely offset by shut-in production, which is likely to last for longer than the market currently expects.”
Strength in cash prices with this week’s heat could also push the August contract higher, according to Weissman.
“The anticipated return of normal weather in Week 3, however, could limit upside potential,” he said.
August crude oil futures were up 18 cents to $60.39/bbl shortly after 8:30 a.m. ET, while August RBOB gasoline was trading about 2.9 cents lower at $1.9478/gal.