After trading within a wide, 20-cent trading range Friday,natural gas futures were noticeably quiet yesterday as little inthe way of either fundamental or technical information was seen topropel prices in either direction.

A higher open that failed to attract additional buying put bearsin control around noon (EST) and that spawned a light, butinsubstantial round of selling. Without a strong sense ofleadership from neither bull nor bear, traders turned theirattention to physical prices, which have slightly outpaced futureslately. However, that differential tightened significantlyyesterday as the futures market managed to hold on to early gains.At the closing bell, the February contract was 0.2 cents less thanits opening price, but 4.3 cents more than Friday’s close at$2.528. Comparatively, NGI’s Henry Hub index for today slipped acouple cents to $2.54.

Two prominent factors that conspired to send many traders backinto their shell yesterday were moderating weather in the Northeastand apprehension over Wednesday’s storage report, said Ed Kennedyof Miami-based Pioneer Futures. Although he has not yet done themodeling for his own internal storage estimate, he believes thiswill be an important report not only because of the Arctic coldlast week, but also because the February contract expires just aday after storage figures are released.

On the demand front, there is little to go on either.Temperatures will be slowly moderating back to normal in many partsof the country by the end of the week according to the NationalWeather Service. That however, could be the calm before the storm.According to one prominent private forecaster, the Central U.S.should brace for an Arctic onslaught next week similar to the onethat crippled parts of the East last week, said Kennedy.

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