December natural gas futures were trading 26.6 cents higher at $4.538/MMBtu shortly before 9 a.m. ET Monday following cooler medium-range forecast trends over the weekend, although questions remain as to the intensity of heating demand early next month.
Carrying over themes from last week, the market remains focused on the timing, intensity and duration of a warm-up expected between now and the end of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, as well as forecast trends for the first half of December, according to EBW Analytics Group CEO Andy Weissman.
“Remarkably, even though the holiday is just a few days away, the models shifted again over the weekend,” which reduced the expected duration of the upcoming warm break to two to three days and a forecast of colder-than-normal conditions to return by early next week, Weissman said. “This shift is likely to push natural gas prices higher again this week. Gains could be limited, however, by the reduction in commercial and industrial demand over the holiday and profit-taking before Wednesday’s close.”
Bespoke Weather Services counted “significant” gas-weighted degree day additions in the medium-range over the weekend, but the forecaster also pointed to a “less favorable” Pacific pattern that could limit cold risks into early December despite a negative North Atlantic Oscillation block.
“Large run-to-run differences likely continue with a volatile Pacific, but the long range is less threatening,” Bespoke said. “Our sentiment is holding at neutral as we saw what was a very surprising major gap up” Sunday evening even with only “modest” heating degree day additions over the weekend, “indicating a market that is unlikely to trend less volatile early in the week.
“Since then we have seen long-range guidance trend less threatening with the early December pattern for major cold, an indication that prices will likely struggle to take out the $4.70-$4.75 resistance level they trended near” Sunday night, the firm said. “…Medium-range cold risks combined with strong cash on short-term cold mean bounces are still likely over $4.50 early in the week, but a less impressive early December pattern means bounces may be sold now.”
NatGasWeather noted differences between the weather models on the early December pattern, ranging from slightly cool conditions to more intense cold across the eastern third of the country.
“Overall, no change as the background state remains solidly bullish due to hefty deficits and a rather bullish pattern the next two weeks” besides the upcoming weekend (Nov. 24-26), the forecaster said. “Another wild trading week is expected with huge moves continuing, especially since the past three sessions have brought nonsensical 40-90 cent swings and extreme volatility.”
December crude oil was trading 8 cents higher at $56.38/bbl shortly before 9 a.m. ET Monday, while December RBOB gasoline was down 1.2 cents to $1.5650/gal.
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