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More Cold On The Way; March Seen 37 Cents Higher

March natural gas is set to open 37 cents higher Wednesday morning at $5.920 as weather models favor stronger Alaska ridging and more cold air pouring into the central U.S. Overnight oil markets rose.

Longer term weather forecasts turned cooler overnight. WSI Corp. of Andover, MA in its 11- to 15-day outlook shows a deep penetrating incursion of below normal temperatures from North Dakota to New Orleans, and Nebraska to New England. "Today's 11-15 day period forecast has trended colder across the CONUS [Continental US] with exception of the interior West when compared to the previous forecast. Confidence is considered near average standards as models show generally fair large-scale agreement."

It added that "All medium range ensemble models are now indicating a stronger ridge over Alaska up through the North Pole, favoring stronger than anticipated cold northwesterly flow down western Canada which should promote colder risks the forecast over the Plains and Midwest late in the period. The southeastern U.S. is under slight warm risks under another brief flex of the southeastern U.S. ridge."

Tim Evans of Citi Futures Perspective puts Tuesday's stout 34-cent gain squarely on the shoulders of the weekend weather revision, and has further revised his estimate of season ending natural gas storage inventories.

"The cooler temperature forecast that emerged over the weekend translat[ed] into a 33.7 cent (6.46%) advance to $5.551 per MMBtu. Stronger cash market quotes for the Henry Hub, Louisiana delivery point as well as Chicago Citygate may have also contributed to the push higher," he said.

Evans has revised his estimate of the long term storage deficit. He predicts this week's storage draw at 236 Bcf, but by March 7 he sees the year-on-five-year deficit at a plump 830 Bcf.

"If we assume five-year average withdrawals for the balance of March, the withdrawal season will end on March 28 with 983 Bcf left on hand, the lowest level since 2003," Evans calculated.

"Similar storage levels are no guarantee of similar price action, but it is worth considering that nearby futures spiked to as much as $11.899 during February 2003 and finished the month at $8.101 before dropping back below the $6.00 mark during March. In this context, the $5.73 peak reached by the March 2014 contract so far doesn't look like such a high price anymore."

Evans recommends holding on to the long March futures position from $4.83 and raising the protective stop to $5.24 "to lock in some profit on the trade."

Industry consultant Genscape sees regional flows favoring gas movement to the Southeast. In a morning report it said "During the cold front that swept the East coast last week, spikes in Southeast demand required the region to rely heavily on imports. Although Southeast demand is steadily decreasing due to warmer temperatures, imports remain high with an increase of +1.2 Bcf/d to 19.0 Bcf/d from last week's average of 17.8 Bcf/d. These imports have been sourced from East Texas, moved through Louisiana, and utilized in the Southeast."

Genscape says its models "suggest a withdrawal of 283 Bcf for week ending February 14th. Our S&D model is showing a withdrawal of 232 Bcf while our storage scrapes-based gross-up model is showing a withdrawal of 278 Bcf."

In overnight Globex trading March crude oil rose 58 cents to $103.01/bbl and March RBOB gasoline gained fractionally to $2.8327/gallon.

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