Finding support in the prospect of a return to more seasonal temperatures by mid-February, natural gas futures were trading a few pennies higher early Monday. The March Nymex contract was up 3.2 cents to $1.873/MMBtu as of 8:30 a.m. ET.

Heading into Monday’s trading, the weather outlook remained essentially unchanged compared to Friday’s forecast, according to Bespoke Weather Services. The forecaster noted a “small colder change this week into the weekend” that was offset by warmer trends for next week, equating to a “small drop” in gas-weighted degree day expectations.

Looking at the major models, the European dataset moved slightly colder over the weekend as the American shifted warmer, “bringing the two into very good agreement regarding total forecast demand through the middle of the month,” Bespoke said. “We do see more ridging at times around Alaska in the medium range today, but the lack of any blocking whatsoever from the pole over to Greenland keeps any cold confined to the central/western states, with above normal temperatures persisting in the East.

“This makes it difficult to get national demand any higher than near normal for a few days here and there, and means any weakening of the Alaska ridging would lead the forecast right back warmer.”

Analysts at EBW Analytics Group similarly viewed the forecast changes over the weekend as “relatively modest.”

“Nationally, total gas-weighted heating degree days are finally projected to return to seasonal norms around Valentine’s Day, with a cold Northwest/warm Southeast pattern,” the EBW analysts said. “With support in place, the March contract could probe higher this morning. If weather model guidance trends warmer again, however, any gains could be quickly erased.”

On the exports front, Genscape Inc. said U.S. pipeline exports to Mexico declined over the weekend, but the firm is looking for volumes to increase later this week.

“Exports fell to as low as 5.14 Bcf/d this weekend and are only up to 5.23 Bcf/d for today,” Genscape senior natural gas analyst Rick Margolin said. “Volumes are low due to the weekend, mild weather and today being Constitution Day, a national banking holiday. The bulk of the drops has been on South Texas pipes, though volumes out of West Texas, Arizona and California are also down.

“The conclusion of today’s holiday should compel volumes to climb back into the 5.5 Bcf/d range for the rest of the week. Volumes could move higher next week as a warm front moves across the country, potentially generating cooling loads.”

From a technical standpoint, in his weekly market profile INTL FCStone Financial Inc. Senior Vice President Tom Saal advised clients to look for the market to test last week’s value area between $1.816 and $1.900.

At 8:30 a.m. ET, March crude oil futures were off 9 cents to $51.47/bbl, while March RBOB gasoline was trading fractionally higher at $1.5080/gal.