Continued warmth in the latest forecasts, combined with a drop in export volumes, sent natural gas futures several cents lower in early trading Thursday. The February Nymex contract was down 5.0 cents to $2.489/MMBtu at around 8:45 a.m. ET.

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The updated forecast from Bespoke Weather Services early Thursday showed small changes versus 24 hours earlier. However, this came after models reversed colder trends in Wednesday’s midday runs, according to the firm.

The forecast shows “variability mixing in over the next couple of weeks but no material move to the colder side,” Bespoke said. “We also still see the pattern turning more toward a warmer than normal regime once agains as we move into early February.

“…We mentioned yesterday that it is difficult to see much downside from the $2.50 level unless the pattern is full-on warm, but odds of exactly that are increasing thanks to the return” of a positive Eastern Pacific Oscillation pattern. “We remain cautious, however, as the last few model cycles have been quite volatile, and any added colder variability will make it easy for prices to move back higher.”

In its latest forecast Thursday, Maxar’s Weather Desk observed “warm detail changes” in the Midcontinent for the 11-15 day time frame (Jan. 31-Feb. 4) compared to expectations 24 hours prior.

“The general pattern remains the same with aboves widespread from the Rockies to the Midcontinent and Northeast, including a couple days of much aboves in the Midcontinent,” Maxar said. “Belows fade in the East early, giving way to aboves in the latter part of the period.”

In the six- to 10-day time frame, from next Tuesday through Jan. 30, Maxar said its latest forecast trended colder in the East, West and Texas but warmer in the Midwest and South.

“Low pressure has exited off the East Coast at the onset with high pressure centered over Manitoba,” the forecaster said. “The high is expected to press eastward during the period, bringing belows into the East for the mid to late period while the Midwest sees some warming late.

“The West remains cold through the period, including much belows” in Southern California and the Southwest. “Model differences in the pattern details keep confidence moderate.”

Meanwhile, the latest estimates from Wood Mackenzie early Thursday showed a sizeable 730 MMcf/d day/day decline in liquefied natural gas (LNG) feed gas demand, with total volumes down to 8.93 Bcf/d based on evening cycle nominations.

“Much of these declines are concentrated at Cheniere’s Sabine Pass LNG facility, where heavy fog has significantly affected visibility,” Wood Mackenzie analyst Preston Fussee-Durham said.

Also of note, Creole Trail Pipeline is scheduled to perform maintenance Thursday, and estimated deliveries from the pipeline to Sabine Pass were down by 386 MMcf/d, Fussee-Durham said. 

Looking ahead to this week’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) storage report, NGI’s model predicted a 191 Bcf withdrawal for the week ended Jan. 15. That would compare with a 97 Bcf pull recorded in the year-ago period and a five-year average withdrawal of 167 Bcf.

This week’s report is scheduled for Friday at 10:30 a.m. ET, a day later than usual due to Wednesday’s presidential inauguration.

March crude oil futures were off 26 cents to $53.05/bbl at around 8:45 a.m. ET, while February RBOB gasoline was down fractionally to $1.5385/gal.