Forecasts over the weekend pointed to mild conditions to end the month, albeit with a somewhat cooler outlook from one of the major weather models, and natural gas futures were trading close to even early Monday. The April Nymex futures contract was up 1.6 cents to $2.811/MMBtu shortly after 8:30 a.m. ET.

Models over the weekend shifted the outlook for the remainder of March in an overall warmer direction, according to Bespoke Weather Services.

“The coldest remaining days in the forecast are this week, with the pattern biased warmer than normal the remainder of the month,” Bespoke said. Although the forcast is not cold, “there remains storminess in the pattern to provide enough variability to prevent a blowtorch, but a slight warmer than normal bias into early April is expected…

“We held our slightly bearish sentiment this morning, as we continue to see little in the way of a catalyst for a rally in the near term…For now, we feel it is likely that we at least test the $2.75 level this week in the April contract, which seems to be fair value at this point in time.”

NatGasWeather similarly pointed to small changes from the weekend forecasts, with the overall outlook indicating mild conditions to end the month.

“The weekend weather data lost a little demand for early this week, was a touch colder late this week, then little changed March 23-31 but still favoring a mild to warm U.S. pattern,” the forecaster said. “However, it’s important to note the European model is a bit cooler than the rest of the data the last week of March, and not by seeing colder air out of Canada push across the border, but rather due to strong spring storms tracking across the country with heavy showers and powerful thunderstorms.”

If the European model’s outlook proves correct, demand will be closer to normal for the last week of March, but if the rest of the data is correct, “demand will be lighter than normal, solidly so many days due to very warm conditions over the southern and eastern U.S.,” NatGasWeather said.

As mild temperatures appear likely to close out March, potentially kicking off an early start to the injection season, the April contract could continue losing ground before it rolls off the board next week, according to EBW Analytics Group CEO Andy Weissman.

“This morning’s forecast reveals little change since Friday. While Week 1 loses demand, both Week 2 and Week 3 posted small gains. Overall, the forecast is largely unchanged,” Weissman said. “The bigger picture, however, is bearish. Unlike late March and early April last year, which were very cold, both Weeks 2 and 3 are expected to be milder than normal.

“Absent a further price decline, the first injection of the season is likely to occur in Week 2, with the year/year storage deficit declining rapidly in subsequent weeks. This is a recipe for weak prices in the physical delivery market and further downward pressure on futures.”

April crude oil futures were trading slightly higher at around 8:30 a.m. ET Monday, up 6 cents to $58.58/bbl. April RBOB gasoline was up fractionally to $1.8599/gal.