Mirroring the rebound in stocks, natural gas futures were trading sharply higher early Friday, helped by colder trends in the latest weather data. The April Nymex contract was up 8.0 cents to $1.921/MMBtu at around 8:40 a.m. ET.
Guidance trended colder overnight, reversing milder trends from Thursday’s data, according to NatGasWeather. Colder trends were focused around weather systems moving into the northern United States around the middle of next week and also March 21-24, the forecaster said.
“The weather data has been inconsistent all week, jumping between milder and colder trends,” NatGasWeather said. “But with the latest data gaining back demand, this could be part of the reason prices are higher overnight and back over $1.90” for the April contract. However, it’s “difficult to know with any certainty since huge hourly moves continue in most major equity and commodity markets, with oil and equities up nearly 5% in overnight trade.”
In what has been a volatile week, as of early Friday, natural gas bulls were “firmly in charge” once again, according to analysts at EBW Analytics Group.
“The European model once again reversed course, regaining nearly all of yesterday’s losses,” the EBW analysts said. “Further, price movements in the natural gas market continue to be accentuated by equities, which are up sharply this morning on hopes for federal legislation to address the coronavirus crisis.
“We expect seesaw trading to continue, with the market torn between very weak near-term fundamentals and bulls expecting production to plummet and natural gas to post gains.”
Uncertainties abound regarding the coronavirus, but at this preliminary stage, analysts at Genscape Inc. said they’re operating with a baseline assumption that natural gas demand impacts from efforts to contain the outbreak could resemble the impact of the weekend reductions in consumption.
“At present, it appears that the coronavirus-triggered precautions are compelling more employees to work from home, closing some businesses and shutting schools, trends common to weekends,” Genscape senior natural gas analyst Rick Margolin said. “Generally speaking, the ‘weekend effect’ lops demand by about 7% compared to mid-week levels. Since 2014, the effect in March is actually smaller, about a 4% drop versus weekdays.”
Genscape estimates show this would mean a roughly 3 Bcf/d decline in demand for March. For April, the impact of weekend-like conditions would mean a 5 Bcf/d drop compared to weekday levels, and for May this would be a 5.6 Bcf/d drop-off.
“The actual impact, though, could likely be greater than a standard weekend effect as some businesses retreat from even baseline operations; businesses that do normally operate during weekend are removed from the stack; large-gathering energy-drawing events like sporting matches and conferences are canceled; and the fact that this doesn’t account for any potential recessionary impacts,” according to Margolin.
April crude oil futures were up $2.24 to $33.74/bbl at around 8:50 a.m. ET, while April RBOB gasoline was up about 6.5 cents to around 96.2 cents/gal.