A much warmer outlook for late December and early January temperatures had natural gas futures trading sharply lower coming out of the weekend. A little after 8:30 a.m. ET Monday, the January Nymex contract was trading 11.0 cents lower at $2.218/MMBtu.
Guidance produced “significant warmer changes” over the weekend, both for the remainder of December and through the first week of January, according to Bespoke Weather Services.
The pattern “favors above normal temperatures for most of the nation outside of the Southwest/California,” the forecaster said. “This December is now set to come in even warmer than December 2018” by around 6-7 gas-weighted degree days.
“Given the look of the pattern at day 15, we’d expect a warmer 16-20 day as well, which would give us a warm first half of January across most key areas for natural gas consumption,” Bespoke said. “We still cannot rule out cold’s return later on, but warmer momentum rules now.”
Compared to previous forecasts, Maxar’s Weather Desk on Monday observed warmer trends for the Midwest for Saturday through Jan. 1.
“The period begins with strong warmth across the Midwest and South out ahead of a cold front,” the forecaster said. “There isn’t much in the way of cold air behind that front, only some moderation but with temperatures remaining above to much above normal through the latter part of the period. Aboves are noted in the East but lacking in the stronger warmth seen in the Midcontinent.”
Further out in the Jan. 2-6 time frame, models “generally agree” on a pattern that would bring continued warmth but with “some variability” along the northern tier of the Lower 48, including a “brief round of marginal belows” in the East late in the period, according to Maxar.
Now that models show an “unbroken string” of warmer-than-normal temperatures stretching through Jan. 6 “and possibly beyond,” prices are likely to come under pressure this week, according to EBW Analytics Group analysts.
“This significant bearish shift is already causing natural gas prices to tumble sharply this morning,” the EBW analysts said. “While temperatures are still expected to return to seasonal norms by Week 3, extremely weak cash demand heading into the holidays” and a drop in heating demand expectations for January “could lead to further downward price pressure this week.”
February crude oil futures were trading close to even at around $60.40/bbl shortly after 8:30 a.m. ET, while January RBOB gasoline was off fractionally at $1.7018/gal.