A large warmer shift in the weekend forecasts, along with continued escalation of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States, kept the pressure on natural gas futures in early trading Monday. The May Nymex contract was down 3.8 cents to $1.633/MMBtu at around 8:45 a.m. ET.

Forecasts over the weekend showed a decline of more than 15 gas-weighted degree days versus Friday’s outlook, according to Bespoke Weather Services. The forecaster described this as “a rather unusual drop” for this time of year.

“The change is to the warmer side in the Midwest and East throughout much of the 15-day period, and in parts of the South as well at times, while the West moves cooler,” Bespoke said. “These changes signify that the base state that dominated virtually the entire winter season is not ready to go away.

“One other thing to consider when it comes to the modeling is that, with far fewer planes in the air thanks to the slowdowns caused by the virus, there is less data for the models to take in, which may reduce model skill until this situation can resolve itself.”

NatGasWeather similarly observed a “rather hefty” 15 heating degree day decline from both the American and European datasets, with the warmer trends focused over the northern part of the country for late this week through next week.

“However, there remains a plethora of other factors that could influence prices” amid impacts from the Covid-19 pandemic and volatility in other markets, NatGasWeather said. “What’s been uncertain is how much demand will be lost from school, business and factory closings across the U.S., and so far, it hasn’t been as much as expected as residential/work from home demand has increased to help offset it, at least so far in the initial data.”

Still, the latest developments heading into Monday’s session suggested the downward pressure created by Covid-19 was unlikely to relent. EBW Analytics Group analysts warned that the “bottom could fall out” soon for natural gas prices.

The number of reported virus cases has continued to “soar,” while the Trump administration has extended social distancing measures to the end of April amid warnings that the virus could kill 100,000-200,000 Americans, the EBW analysts noted.

“In the face of these bleak developments, natural gas prices are likely to remain under downward pressure — with the potential for pressure to accelerate once the magnitude of likely demand losses due to the contagion becomes more apparent,” they said.

May crude oil futures were down 98 cents to $20.53/bbl at around 8:45 a.m. ET, while April RBOB gasoline was down 5.1 cents to around 52.3 cents/gal.