Milder trends overnight in the forecast data piled on the pressure for natural gas futures in early trading Wednesday as hopes for substantive weather-driven demand this winter rapidly fade. After settling 19.1 cents lower in the previous session, the February Nymex contract was down 7.1 cents to $2.475/MMBtu at around 8:40 a.m. ET.
The overnight European model trended milder, putting it about 10-12 heating degree days warmer compared to previous runs over the past 24 hours, NatGasWeather said early Wednesday.
The American model added demand overnight, “but the European had been colder, and the natural gas markets were likely hoping the frostier scenario would come through,” the firm said. “Not to be the case, as the weather data disappoints yet again, as it’s done in almost all instances the past two winters.”
There’s still a “decent” amount of national demand expected starting this weekend through Jan. 29, NatGasWeather said.
“However, the natural gas markets were clearly hoping for frigid air over Western Canada to push more aggressively across the Midwest and Northeast instead of only modest cold shots arriving,” according to the firm. “Also at issue, the pattern is now quite bearish for Feb. 1-3 as warm upper high pressure builds over most of the U.S. besides the West Coast and far East for light national demand.”
In Tuesday’s trading, demand gains in the midday run of the American model failed to inspire a recovery in prices, analysts at EBW Analytics Group said, pointing to this as a sign that “bulls are giving up hope for the winter.”
Should the colder outlook from the European model materialize, starting this weekend the market will see a 10-day stretch of gas-weighted heating demand levels coming closer to 30-year norms “than during any extended period until now this winter,” the EBW analysts said, potentially setting up some “sizeable draws” on storage inventories in the coming weeks.
“With the heart of winter drawing to a close, though, this cool but not frigid weather is not enough to satisfy the market,” the analysts said. “This is triggering another sell-off this morning and could test support at $2.37 before trading of the February contract ends on Jan. 27.”
ICAP Technical Analysis analyst Brian LaRose in a note to clients following Tuesday’s trade pegged support levels at $2.491 and $2.379, citing the “remaining ratio retracements associated with the $2.263/2.238 lows.”
Should these support levels fail, “a drop to $2.182, even $1.852 will be on the table for the next seasonal cycle low,” LaRose said. “As a reminder, the epicenter of the seasonal bottoming window is mid-February for Henry Hub natural gas.”
February crude oil futures were up 51 cents to $53.49/bbl at around 8:40 a.m. ET, while February RBOB gasoline was up about 1.1 cents to $1.5488/gal.
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