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Near-Term Cold On Tap, But May Called 5 Cents Lower

May natural gas is expected to open 5 cents lower Monday morning at $4.57 as traders discount near-term weather reports and factor in larger long market exposure by directional traders. Overnight oil markets were mixed.

Although major cold this time of year is not likely, forecasters are calling for shots of below-normal temperatures in the Midwest in the near term, which at the very least is likely to slow gas storage builds. Joe Bastardi of WeatherBELL Analytics said he expects "Major cold in two waves this week. The first is now and the second (centered in Plains) later this week. [A] new trough next week sends in more chill as the western ridge expands, [but] not as cold as this week's shot."

He does see "West-east orientated warmth in the South with cold across North sets up for Days 10-20. Northern Plains through Great Lakes remain cold, while warmth spreads out of the West into the southern Plains and Southeast."

WeatherBELL forecasts hefty near-term heating degree day (HDD) accumulations. Nationally days one through five come in at 75.9 compared to 49.5 last year and 51.5 on average. In days six through 10 54.4 HDDs are expected with 64.6 seen last year. The 30-year average is for 45.3 HDD.

Addison Armstrong of Tradition Energy sees the weak open as the result of "profit-taking begun on Friday as cold that is gripping the eastern two-thirds of the country is forecast to ease by the weekend. He also notes directional traders taking the long side of the market "Speculators held a net-long position of 113,103 Nymex natural gas futures and options contracts in the week ended April 8th, according to the latest Commitment of Traders report released by the CFTC on Friday. That was an increase of 17% on the week."

Futures traders Friday thought the day's setback may set the stage for more rangebound trading. At the close, May had lost 3.5 cents to $4.620 and June had fallen 3.6 cents to $4.635. "I think the market will have a tough time running up next week. I look for a range of $4.65 on the top and back to $4.45 on the bottom," said a New York floor trader. "It looks like a trading range, but the range has just ratcheted up," he said. "From May to October the whole board trades together. There's no [financial] incentive to store gas."

In overnight Globex trading May crude oil fell 7 cents to $103.67/bbl and May RBOB gasoline gained a half cent to $298.39/gal.

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