A warmer forecast for the first third of March kept the pressure on natural gas futures in early trading Wednesday. The expiring March Nymex contract was down 2.6 cents to $2.853/MMBtu at around 8:50 a.m. ET. April was down 2.2 cents to $2.835.
The latest forecasts extended warmer trends for the opening third of March, putting the period on track for well below normal demand as above normal temperatures are expected to take hold across the Midwest and East, according to Bespoke Weather Services.
“All models agree, although to varying degrees,” with the American model notably warmer than its European counterpart, Bespoke said. “While there can be some variability at times as we move through the month of March, the risk is increasing that the month as a whole will be a low demand one, with warmth winning out rather easily over any cooler periods.”
Meanwhile, looking ahead to Thursday’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) storage report, predictions point to a withdrawal that could approach or even exceed the 300 Bcf mark for the week ending Feb. 19, reflecting the tumultuous conditions in the market as a deep freeze swept through the Lower 48 last week.
NGI’s model predicted a 287 withdrawal for the week, which would easily exceed both the 145 Bcf pull recorded in the year-ago period and the five-year average 120 Bcf withdrawal.
An early estimate from Energy Aspects showed this week’s report potentially showing an all-time record weekly withdrawal well into the 300s Bcf.
“The deep freeze across the Midcontinent has wreaked havoc on national balances and is set to force a record EIA withdrawal,” the firm said. “Freeze-offs are on track to spark a production decline of 13.8 Bcf/d week/week (including a decline of over 20 Bcf/d from peak to trough).”
This occurred as national gas-weighted heating degree days increased by an estimated 15% for the period, driving an estimated 8.8 Bcf/d week/week increase in residential/commercial demand, according to the firm.
“Other demand sectors are lower week/week on gas conservation measures,” including liquefied natural gas feed gas, industrial and exports to Mexico, Energy Aspects said.
The U.S. gas market experienced a “historic shock” last week as the cold blast caused record production freeze-offs, but the overall impact on balances appears “transient,” according to analysts at Goldman Sachs Commodities Research.
“The impact on our longer-term U.S. gas balance is in fact negligible given the combination of warmer weather forecast for March, and upward revisions to our supply estimates,” the Goldman researchers said in a recent note to clients.
“Net, we continue to expect end-October 2021 storage well below comfortable levels under current market forwards and, hence, we maintain our constructive Nymex gas view for this summer at $3.25/MMBtu, above current forwards at $3.02.”
April crude oil futures were trading 27 cents higher to $61.94/bbl at around 8:50 a.m. ET, while March RBOB gasoline was up fractionally to $1.8675/gal.
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