With natural gas futures dropping to four-year lows this week on mild winter weather, the prospect of colder temperatures returning next month helped spark a rebound in early trading Thursday. The February Nymex contract was up 5.7 cents to $1.962/MMBtu shortly after 8:40 a.m. ET.
The overnight weather data trended somewhat colder but maintained a “quite bearish” pattern through Feb. 4, according to NatGasWeather.
However, “the latest data does continue to show a better opportunity for more impressive cold air to push into the northern U.S. Feb. 5-6, but still a bit far out to be expected,” the forecaster said.
After heavy selling in recent sessions, the colder look near the end of the 15-day forecast window could stop the downward move in prices, at least for now, according to analysts at EBW Analytics Group.
“With winter month contracts at historic lows, traders are looking for a near-term bottom, expecting prices to rebound significantly,” the EBW analysts said. “This morning’s forecast is likely to encourage these traders to jump in, showing a modest increase” in gas-weighted heating demand for days 14-15 of the outlook period.
The latest Energy Information Administration (EIA) storage, scheduled for release at 10:30 a.m. ET, could also “add fuel to the fire” in the event of a bullish miss versus consensus, EBW said.
Estimates have been pointing to a lighter-than-average withdrawal for this week’s EIA report. A Bloomberg survey showed a median prediction for an 88 Bcf withdrawal, while a Reuters survey landed on a 91 Bcf pull. Predictions ranged from minus 84 Bcf to minus 115 Bcf.
NGI’s model predicted a 98 Bcf withdrawal for the report, which covers the week ended Jan. 17. Last year, EIA recorded a 152 Bcf withdrawal for the similar week, and the five-year average is a withdrawal of 194 Bcf.
“It was warmer than normal over the eastern half of the country, while colder than normal across portions of the West and Northern Plains” during this week’s EIA report period, NatGasWeather said. “Our algorithm predicts a draw of 93-94 Bcf, to the bullish side.”
Any rally Thursday could prove short-lived, according to EBW.
“While the February contract could briefly test resistance at or even above $2.00, we do not expect a sustained rally,” the EBW analysts said. “Any colder shift is likely to be modest. Cash demand is too weak and the amount of gas in storage too high.”
March crude oil was down $1.16 to $55.58/bbl shortly after 8:40 a.m. ET, while February RBOB gasoline was trading about 2.3 cents lower at $1.5569/gal.