Natural gas futures were higher early Monday as a cold front expected by the middle of the week gave a slight boost to prices. The January Nymex gas futures contract was trading at $2.315, up 1.9 cents, at around 8:20 a.m. ET. February was up 1.5 cents to $2.297.

Weekend weather data held onto milder trends from Friday, with the Global Forecast System losing an additional 8-10 heating degree days (HDD) and the European model adding only 2 HDDs to its outlook, according to NatGasWeather. “Overall, the data is still cold enough for the middle of this week as a frigid cold shot with below-normal temperatures spreads over most U.S. regions.”

However, upper high pressure remains on track to return to dominate most of the United States from Saturday (Dec. 21) through the Christmas holiday except for portions of the West, according to the forecaster. The data is especially warm/bearish in the European model Dec. 21-27.

“How long this mild ridge lasts is now of considerable interest since the longer it takes for cold to return, the more bearish it will be” as storage inventories flip back to solid surpluses to the five-year average in the weeks ahead, NatGasWeather said. “Some of the weather data teases colder air filtering back into the northern United States Dec. 27-29, although with more to prove.”

Over the past three to four weeks, the day/day inconsistency in weather modeling runs has been maddening, according to EBW Analytics Group. While the European model has been much warmer than the American, and appears to have been vindicated by runs over the past 72 hours, both models have swung back and forth many times, leading to choppy trading. “Currently, it looks like a warmer solution will win out,” the firm said.

Even with frigid air moving across the country Wednesday and Thursday, the positive temperature anomaly is small, according to EBW. While continued weather model volatility is likely, if the current model solution prevails, cash prices are likely to weaken over the Christmas holiday, pushing gas futures lower.

Crude oil futures were trading at $60.07/bbl at 8:20 a.m., unchanged from the previous settle. RBOB gasoline futures were off fractionally at $1.663/gal.