A major overnight cold shift in the medium-range outlook had natural gas futures trading higher early Tuesday. At around 8:30 a.m. ET, the April Nymex futures contract was up 3.1 cents to $2.881/MMBtu, building on a 5.5 cent rally during the previous session.
According to Bespoke Weather Services, both the American and European models advertised a “huge change in the colder direction” overnight, adding 15-20 gas-weighted degree days (GWDD) to the two-week outlook period.
“The vast majority of the change is next week, where models strengthened the western North American ridge enough to push a bigger cold trough into the eastern half of the U.S.,” Bespoke said. “Out into early April, much less change was observed, with a fairly tame pattern still depicted there.”
Partly because “such a large GWDD change is very unusual this late in the season,” the forecaster said it sees risks for upcoming midday data to trend warmer compared to the overnight runs.
Radiant Solutions similarly noted a “large change in the colder direction” in its latest six- to 10-day outlook Tuesday.
The change results from a “faster buildup in ridging over Western Canada and Alaska,” Radiant said. “This feature aids in the more direct push of Canadian high pressure into the Midcontinent. Below normal temperatures accompany this high pressure into the Midwest and East by mid-period and reaching areas of the South during the latter stages.
“Still, a warmer than normal start has the period averaging closer to normal in the Eastern Half, but confidence is low on colder models and their larger run to run changes over the past 24 hours.”
Meanwhile, the forecast for a milder-than-normal end to March prompted Energy Aspects last week to revise its end-of-season inventory estimate back up to 1.08 Tcf versus an estimated 950 Tcf the week before.
“With the shoulder season approaching fast and a repeat of the supportive cold in April 2018 and early heat in May 2018 unlikely this year, the focus is squarely on the injection season,” analysts with the consulting firm said in a recent note to clients. “How tight or loose fundamentals are in the shoulder season will set the tone for near-term trading. If storage is at 1.08 Tcf at end-March, there is little need for burning off excess inventories early in the injection season and consequently no major risk that April 2019 cash decouples from the strip.
“Instead, the movements in balances and prices in the shoulder season should stem from a trade-off between supply recovery (and growth) and structural demand” as weather becomes less of a factor, Energy Aspects said. “…In short, price formation will depend on how hefty injection rates are at the start of the shoulder season. Currently, our weekly balances point to a 6.5 Bcf/d average monthly injection rate in April.”
April crude oil futures were trading 27 cents higher at $59.36/bbl as of 8:30 a.m. ET, while April RBOB gasoline was up fractionally to $1.8902/gal.
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