By Barani Krishnan
Investing.com — Is natural gas returning to $3 anytime soon? That seems to be the question on the minds of almost everyone in this market though it may not be articulated as much, with the heating fuel posting another spectacular double-digit weekly loss after appearing to be on a higher trajectory just last week.
The April gas contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange’s Henry Hub settled Friday’s trade at $2.43 per mmBtu, or metric million British thermal units, down 11.3 cents, or 4.3%.
For the week, April gas was down nearly 19%.
Gas futures rose a compounded 30% in the prior two weeks, hitting a 5-week high of $3.027 on March 3, on expectations of late winter chill after months of unseasonable warmth.
But like a curse to the bulls, this week’s weather models were back to pointing at higher temperatures, triggering another market crash that proved the rally of the past two weeks to be nothing more than a “dead cat bounce.”
Charts for April gas suggest that the path of least resistance is lower, says Sunil Kumar Dixit, chief technical strategist at SKCharting.com.
“As gas breaks below the previous week’s low, immediate resistance shifts to $2.66, above which $2.80 is the next challenge,” said Dixit. “Below the $2.55 support, we can witness a further drop to $2.30 and $2.18.”
Fundamentally, the outlook for gas has undergone a paradigm shift after this week’s change in the weather model readings, said Houston-based energy markets advisory Gelber & Associates.
“Production is still strong at 100.5 billion cubic feet per day,” Gelber said in a note that affirmed gas output back to late January highs after recent declines below 100 bcf. “NYMEX natural gas prompt month price, as a result, has largely traded sideways.”
An unusually warm winter has led to considerably less heating demand in the United States this year, leaving more gas in storage than initially thought.
Storage of natural gas stood at a total 2.030 tcf, or trillion cubic feet, as of March 3 — up 32% from the year-ago level of 1.537 tcf and 19% higher than the five-year average of 1.671 tcf, the EIA, or Energy Information Administration, reported.
Responding to the warmth and lackluster storage draws, gas prices plunged from a 14-year high of $10 per mmBtu in August, reaching $7 in December before hitting a 2-½ year bottom of $1.967 in late February.
“When is natty returning to $3? Or will we plumb a new low for this year before that happens? That’s what everyone wants to know,” said John Kilduff, partner at New York energy hedge fund Again Capital.
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