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Despite Milder Forecasts, May Seen Up 2 Cents

May natural gas is expected to open 2 cents higher Wednesday morning at $4.59 as traders begin to focus on upcoming storage reports for any signs that injections might not fall into alignment with elevated production. Overnight oil markets rose.

In its Wednesday morning forecast, WSI Corp. said it sees above-normal temperatures over much of the eastern half of the country. "Today's six-10 day period forecast has trended warmer across the central and eastern U.S., yet cooled over the Southwest when compared to the previous forecast. Forecast confidence is considered near average standards as a result of reasonable large-scale model agreement."

It added that risks to the forecast may be "in store over the East early-to-mid period if a digging cold trough sweeping across southeastern Canada extends further south across the northeaster U.S. than what is currently anticipated. Colder risks are also in store over the western two-thirds mid-to-late period as a Pacific upper-level trough impacts the region."

Near term, the National Weather Service (NWS) sees a mixed pattern of heating load. For the week ended April 19, NWS predicts 97 heating degree days (HDD) or 38 fewer than normal for New England, and 89 HDD or 26 fewer than normal for the Mid-Atlantic. The Midwest, however, from Ohio to Wisconsin is expected to see 132 HDD or 15 more than normal.

WeatherBELL Analytics' Alan Lammey sees an immobile market. "Despite the fact that there are several bullish catalysts already factored into the price of prompt-month gas, many participants are concerned about slightly longer-term bearish fundamentals, such as the potential for a less intense summer coupled with supply [production] remaining at record levels," he said.

"Pretty much all eyes will be on the weekly natural gas storage data this week and subsequent weeks throughout the remainder of April and all of May as a sign of where the refill season might be headed for the summer. Meanwhile, wind power and other renewables are gaining ground against natural gas. Additionally, coal prices are trading at the equivalent of about $2.60/MMBtu, marking a nearly $2 discount to natural gas."

Lammey is looking for a build of about 40 Bcf. "Once again, market expectations for this week's data is all over the place -- ranging from a build of 4 Bcf to as much as 45 Bcf. This week's report will be compared to a 25 Bcf build during the same week last year, while the five-year average for the week is a 37 Bcf injection," he said.

Tom Saal, vice president at INTL FC Stone, in his work with Market Profile is looking for the market to test Tuesday's value area at $4.631 to $4.567. "Eventually," he said, the market should test $4.456 to $4.434.

In overnight Globex trading May crude oil added 96 cents to $104.71/bbl and May RBOB gasoline gained a half cent to $3.0474/gal.

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