Mild summer temperatures led Stern Agee analysts to reset their U.S. natural gas price forecast for 4Q2014, but they remain bullish for the winter storage season.
Summer has been a "drag, not a death knell, for gas prices," wrote analysts Tim Rezvan and Truman Hobbs in a note to clients Friday.
The September 2014 New York Mercantile Exchange Henry Hub contract expired at $4.06/Mcf, below Stern Agee's forecast of $4.55. Based on the lower contract, analysts reset the 4Q2014 price deck to $4.15/Mcf from $4.65.
The revised price for 4Q2014 is in line with a "weakening futures strip after a mild summer, despite gas in storage likely to peak at 3.5 Tcf in early November, 5-10% below typical peaks," said the analysts.
"We believe sentiment is as much a driver of price action for natural gas as the underlying fundamentals of storage and demand, and the mild summer has muted much of the bullish sentiment for near-term pricing that originated in the winter. We expect gas in storage to peak at 3.5 Tcf in early November, 6% below the average peak storage of 3.72 Tcf over the last eight years, which will drive heightened volatility in the event we see a typical or severe winter."
Analysts said investors shouldn't be "overly bearish" regarding gas. However, they reduced their 2015 forecast to $4.35 from $4.50.
"Yes, Appalachian bottlenecks will begin easing in '15, supporting growth," said Rezvan and Hobbs. "But we are now a couple of quarters away from a 2 Bcf/d increase in gas pipeline exports to Mexico," and slightly more than one year from liquefied natural gas exports, which they said could be up to 1.2 Bcf/d.
"Lower 48 production growth will keep climbing, but operators and midstream companies continue to find homes for these incremental gas molecules. We expect a $4.00/Mcf gas price to persist through '16." Stern Agee's initial gas price forecast for 2016 is $4.25/Mcf Henry Hub.
The oil price outlook was reduced slightly through 2015 for West Texas Intermediate (WTI) and Brent crude. For 2014/2015, the WTI estimate was cut to $99/94 per barrel. For 2014/2015, the Brent estimate is set at $107/104.