Countering a chillier outlook in Thursday’s forecasts, warmer overnight guidance had natural gas futures trading several cents lower early Friday. The January Nymex contract was off 5.8 cents to $2.270/MMBtu shortly after 8:30 a.m. ET.
Continuing a stretch of “wild” volatility in the weather models, the outlook shifted back to warmer overnight rather than building on the colder trends that emerged in Thursday’s data, according to Bespoke Weather Services.
“Just when we appeared to be gaining a little colder momentum, at least getting a few more colder days mixing into the pattern, all overnight models jumped significantly warmer, back to a full-on attack from milder Pacific flow,” Bespoke said. “It is interesting how all of the runs began to change by days four to five toward more upper level troughing in the Gulf of Alaska through Western Canada, indicating that something was picked up in the initialization of last night’s runs that was not there at midday yesterday.
“This lowers our confidence again somewhat, as we need to make sure the next runs do not simply bend back the other way again, but as it stands now, the pattern is back easily on the warm side of normal overall, and we still do not see any sign yet of a turn back materially colder,” not even at the end of the 15 day forecast window.
Short covering likely played a role in accelerating Thursday’s rally, which came in response to a “huge” shift in the weather models, EBW Analytics Group analysts said.
With guidance “abruptly” reversing course and prices down in early trading, uncertainty over the weather models “remains sky high,” the analysts said. The ensemble members of the major models are “showing subtle differences in ridge positioning two days from now that are then amplified in subsequent days. Significant shifts are still possible later today or over the weekend, creating considerable uncertainty regarding where prices will head between now and Monday.”
Meanwhile, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported a 73 Bcf withdrawal from natural gas storage inventories for the week ending Dec. 6, below the year-ago withdrawal of 75 Bcf but several Bcf above the 68 Bcf five-year average pull. Total working gas in storage as of Dec. 6 stood at 3,518 Bcf, 593 Bcf above last year at this time and 14 Bcf below the five-year average, according to EIA.
“Blaming weather for weak gas pricing this winter might be the easy thing to do, but so far weather has actually been quite strong,” analysts at Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co. (TPH) said in a note to clients Friday. “For the EIA reporting week, degree days were 4% above normal, and so far this withdrawal season cumulative degree days are 11% above norms, driving cumulative withdrawals 44% above the five-year average.”
However, forecasts indicate a reversion to above normal temperatures for most of the United States over the next two weeks.
“This week’s 73 Bcf withdrawal was slightly above the five-year average, and adjusted for weather reflects a 2 Bcf/d oversupplied market,” the TPH analysts said.
January crude oil futures were up 62 cents to $59.80/bbl shortly after 8:40 a.m. ET, while January RBOB gasoline was trading 2.7 cents higher at $1.6553/gal.