A hotter-trending weather outlook over the weekend helped lift natural gas futures sharply higher in early trading Monday. The August Nymex contract was up 7.6 cents to $1.620/MMBtu at around 8:40 a.m. ET.

Coming off hotter trends over the weekend, Bespoke Weather Services said the next two weeks are looking “very impressive in terms of national demand” even as the southern part of the country isn’t expected to experience extreme heat.

Gas-weighted degree days (GWDD) “are projected to run well above normal into the first half of July thanks to persistent stronger heat in the Midwest and East,” Bespoke said. “According to our current forecast, even a near-normal second half of July would allow the month as a whole to rank in the top five in terms of highest July GWDD totals.”

Looking at balances, Bespoke said the latest data heading into Monday’s session was “all very close to flat” versus late last week. The upcoming Energy Information Administration storage report could prove telling in terms of deciphering whether “last week’s massive bearish number was a one-off or a sign of something lasting. We lean to the former, which if correct should support prices at these levels.”

After heavy selling last week, this week could see natural gas prices “try to mount a comeback,” according to analysts at EBW Analytics Group.

“With the weather forecast continuing to trend much hotter overnight, the August contract is likely to post gains early this week,” they said. Still, liquefied natural gas (LNG) export shut-ins continue to loom over the market, which will be “waiting anxiously for indications of the level of LNG feed gas flows during the first week of July. If flows fall significantly from the 3.7-3.8 Bcf/d level that applied during much of June, the August contract could still retreat.”

Cash market demand is also likely to drop heading into the Fourth of July holiday, which could limit the upside potential for any gains this week, according to the EBW analysts.

“It may take until next week, therefore, before we can fully gauge the extent of the August contract’s ability to recover this month,” they said.

From a technical standpoint, natural gas bulls need to do more than only prevent the August contract from dropping below a support band around $1.521/1.519, ICAP Technical Analysis analyst Brian LaRose told clients in a recent note.

“They need a ricochet higher,” LaRose said. “Targeting the $1.446-1.432, then $1.329-1.305 neighborhood from here if the bulls are unable to promptly lift natural gas back above $1.711-1.719-1.736 to start the week.”

August crude oil futures were up 32 cents to $38.81/bbl at around 8:40 a.m. ET, while July RBOB gasoline was up fractionally to $1.1560/gal.