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New England, Gulf Weakness Tug Quotes Lower; Futures Movin' On Up

Gas for Wednesday delivery was widely mixed in Tuesday's trading with a slight edge to the loss side of the ledger. Gains in the Mid-Atlantic, Marcellus and Midcontinent couldn't offset super-sized declines in New England as well as weakness in the Gulf Coast and Rockies.

Overall, the market shed a nickel. Futures continued their exuberant path higher as weather forecasts notched a bit cooler and technical hurdles were breached. At the close, December had gained 8.3 cents to $4.129 and January was up 8.1 cents to $4.226. December crude oil couldn't get out of its own way and lost another $1.59 to $77.19/bbl, a three-year low for a spot contract.

Forecasts of mild weather along with load-killing rain later in the week pummeled New England prices. "After the weather smiles on the region during the middle of the week, a storm will move in Thursday, followed by a quick shot of chilly air for the Boston area," said AccuWeather.com meteorologist Alex Sosnowski.

"Temperatures will climb into the 60s at midweek and will be combined with at least partial sunshine, [but] a storm is forecast to move into the region on Thursday. The storm has the potential to bring travel delays and the risk of poor drainage area flooding later Thursday into Friday morning. At the very least, the period from Thursday evening into Friday will bring umbrella weather.

"The storm later this week will not pack the wind and cold air of the storm this past weekend. However, it will bring a day or so of blustery and chilly conditions. Temperatures are forecast to again moderate during the first part of next week, ahead of a more significant blast of cold air that could rival that of last weekend."

The high in Boston Tuesday of 57 will give way to a reading of 63 Wednesday followed by rain and a high of 55 Thursday, according to AccuWeather.com. The seasonal high in Boston is 55. Providence, RI, was forecast to see its Tuesday high of 64 make it to 66 Wednesday before slipping to 58 Thursday, one degree above normal. New Haven, CT's high of 65 on Tuesday and Wednesday was forecast to ease to 61 Thursday. The normal high in New Haven in early November is 57.

Next-day peak power prices in New England were quoted lower, but loads were expected to hold steady. IntercontinentalExchange reported next-day peak power at ISO New England's Massachusetts Hub fell $7.69 to $40.14, and ISO New England forecast that Tuesday's peak load of 16,480 MW would ease to 16,380 MW Wednesday and climb to 16,760 MW Thursday.

Next-day gas at the Algonquin Citygates plunged $1.52 to $3.37, and deliveries to Iroquois Waddington shed 19 cents to $3.64. Gas on Tennessee Zone 6 200 L fell a hefty $1.06 to $3.30.

Gas buyers in the Mid-Atlantic and Marcellus were not as fortunate as those buying for New England delivery as power loads were forecast to work higher and next-day power prices declined. The New York ISO predicted that Tuesday's peak load of 19,409 MW would rise to 19,503 MW Wednesday before climbing to 19,673 MW Thursday. IntercontinentalExchange reported that Wednesday peak power for western New York (NY ISO Zone A) dropped $6.45 to $32.00/MWh.

Gas bound for New York City on Transco Zone 6 gained 18 cents to $2.83, and deliveries to Tetco M-3 added 12 cents to $2.70.

On Millennium, Wednesday packages gained 12 cents to $2.54, and gas on Transco Leidy jumped 17 cents to $2.44. Parcels on Tennessee Zone 4 Marcellus added 33 cents to $2.37, and gas changed hands on Dominion South at $2.51, up 16 cents.

Gas along the Gulf Coast and Texas slumped. Parcels on Transco Zone 3 fell 14 cents to $3.57, and gas at the Henry Hub was seen 6 cents lower at $3.66. Deliveries to Katy were off 7 cents to $3.44, and gas on Tennessee 500 L fell 5 cents to $3.60.

As tempting a short sale as the market might seem following Monday's 17-cent surge, analysts are urging caution for the moment. "[Monday's] price up spike of almost 4.5% was almost entirely related to a weekend shift in the temperature expectations in the direction of significantly colder trends than had been anticipated on Friday. We feel that an improved chart picture has also been forcing speculative shorts out of the market with today's lift above the psychologically important $4 level providing the latest technical buying impetus," said Jim Ritterbusch of Ritterbusch and Associates in closing comments Monday to clients.

"But while the extent and duration of the upcoming cold spell that is expected to arrive in force later this week may require some sizable adjustments in storage shifts across the month of November, end of October supply should come in much stronger than expected just a few weeks ago. Although our anticipated 3.6 Tcf level won't likely be seen until next week, Thursday's EIA report is apt to reveal a further 45-50 Bcf contraction in the deficit against year ago and five-year average supply builds.

"Overall, we feel that the improved chart picture is just as important to near-term price direction as the upcoming cold spell and with this in mind, we would caution against attempts to short this market for at least another day or two until the market's response to Thursday's EIA release offers additional pricing clues. Next chart resistance develops at about the $4.12 area but with major resistance unavailable until the August-September double top highs of about $4.25.

Short term, traders also see $4 support. "Temperatures here on the East Coast are pretty cold, we were in the 30s last night and only up to 52 or 53 today," said a New York floor trader Monday. "Midweek its looking to warm back up to the 60s, but I think we've seen the downside to this market as much as we could, and now going forward $4 is going to be a good holding point."

Forecasters see still cooler shifts in the near term. "[Tuesday's] six-10 day period forecast is colder than the previous forecast over the eastern half of the nation due in part to model trends and the day shift," said WSI Corp. in its Tuesday morning report. "Confidence in the forecast is average as medium range models are in reasonably good agreement with the overall large-scale pattern. However, there are technical differences with the timing and details of the cold.

"The risk may be to the colder side down the Rockies and into the eastern two-thirds of the nation. The West Coast may run warmer."

AccuWeather.com meteorologists said, "Indications are that a piece of the polar vortex from the Arctic may break off and move southward across Ontario, Canada, later next week." According to AccuWeather.com meteorologist Paul Pastelok, "The large outbreak of cold air later next will tend to focus over the North Central states, where the lowest temperatures of the fall so far are likely to be recorded."

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