Next-day gas was mostly lower in Tuesday's trading as gains in the Mid-Atlantic and Gulf were not able to offset multi-dollar drops in New England and weakness in the Midwest, Rockies and California. The overall physical market setback was 17 cents. Futures gave back a portion of Monday's gains, and the now-spot February contract fell 10.5 cents to $3.094. March shed 9.6 cents to $3.096. February crude oil added 51 cents to $54.12/bbl.
Next-day gas at New England points fell hard as the region was expected to see a modest warming trend and peak power prices tumbled. Wunderground.com forecast that Hanover, NH's Tuesday high of 25 degrees would drop to 22 Wednesday before bringing in the New Year at 27. The normal high in Hanover is 28. Boston's Tuesday maximum of 30 was seen rising to 32 Wednesday and 33 by Thursday. The seasonal high in Boston is 37. New Haven, CT's high on Tuesday of 30 was expected to reach 31 on Wednesday and hit 34 on Thursday, 3 degrees shy of the seasonal norm.
Gas for delivery to the Algonquin Citygates shed $3.76 to $8.68, and deliveries to Iroquois Waddington fell 74 cents to $3.68. Gas on Tennessee Zone 6 200 L came in $2.27 lower at $8.58.
Gas bound for New York City on Transco Zone 6 rose 16 cents to $3.45, and deliveries to Tetco M-3 added 6 cents to $2.46.
Gas prices found themselves intertwined with next-day peak power as New England prices tumbled and Mid-Atlantic peak power rose. IntercontinentalExchange reported that Wednesday peak power at the ISO New England's Massachusetts Hub dropped $16.56 to $64.27/MWh, yet next-day peak power at the New York ISO's Zone G (eastern New York) delivery point gained $18.38 to $50.00/MWh. Peak power at the PJM West terminal for Wednesday added $1.17 to $39.91/MWh.
Forecast power loads going into the New Year's Holiday generally declined. ISO New England predicted that Tuesday's peak load of 18,820 MW would ease to 18,670 MW Wednesday and Thursday's peak load was expected to reach 18,070 MW. PJM Interconnection forecast that Tuesday's peak load of 39,336 MW would reach 40,775 MW Wednesday before easing to 40,585 MW Thursday.
Gulf Coast prices firmed. Wednesday gas on Columbia Gulf Mainline added 12 cents to $3.06 and gas at the Henry Hub rose 11 cents to $3.12. Gas on Florida Gas Transmission Z3 gained 8 cents to $3.13, and deliveries to Katy climbed 4 cents to $3.10.
Rockies prices fell although they still maintained an uncharacteristic premium to market zones in the Midwest and California. Gas on CIG Mainline fell 42 cents to $3.52, and deliveries to the Cheyenne Hub fell 26 cents to $3.57. At Opal, next-day packages changed hands at $3.57, down 29 cents, and on El Paso Non-Bondad, gas was seen at $3.38, down 14 cents.
Gas at Great Lakes and Midwest points couldn't match Rockies quotes. Deliveries to Alliance fell 14 cents to $3.33, and deliveries to the Chicago Citygates came in 14 cents lower at $3.33 as well. On Consumers, next-day gas shed 11 cents to $3.32, and on Michcon parcels were seen at $3.33, down 7 cents. On ANR SW Wednesday gas was quoted at $3.24, down 20 cents.
Market analysts suggest that wide-swinging prices might be around for a while. "This market is seeing volatility cranked up as a result of not only a mix of short-term temperature views but also forecasts that have been rapidly changing since late last week," said Jim Ritterbusch of Ritterbusch and Associates in closing comments Tuesday. "However, consensus of opinions still favors below-normal temps across key consuming regions looking out across the next couple of weeks. As a result, weekly EIA [Energy Information Administration] storage withdrawals will almost certainly be kicked up well above a three-digit level beyond tomorrow's release in the process of slowing the dynamic of year over year surplus expansion.
"As far as [Wednesday's] numbers are concerned, our expected 48 Bcf draw compares with average industry ideas for about a 41 Bcf decrease. But another counter-intuitive response to our seemingly supportive figure could be seen given current expectations for the colder-than-normal weather patterns. We see some wide price swings with the arrival of the more intense portion of the heavy usage cycle that will be jockeying prices violently in both directions at times.
"Nonetheless, we are favoring a bearish stance while at the same time advising selectivity in approaching the short side. Although this week's weather-inspired price rally has proven short-lived, we are leaving open the possibility of a lift to about the $3.25 level by week's end. We can even see values eventually as high as $3.55 if colder-than-normal temperature trends begin to stretch beyond mid-January. However, we see the $3.55 level as a price cap, probably across the winter as the long standing supply deficit against average levels will soon be erased."
That process will be in earnest Wednesday as the 12:00 p.m. EDT release of government storage figures is anticipated to show a thin decline for the week ended Dec. 26. Last year, a stout 108 Bcf was withdrawn, and the five-year pace stands at 114 Bcf. Houston based IAF Advisors calculates a 30 Bcf decline, and Citi Futures Perspective analysts see a 43 Bcf pull. ICAP Energy is looking for a 28 Bcf withdrawal.
Forecasters are calling for no let-up in the pervasive cold. "A dominant high-pressure system will sink south southeastward over the Intermountain West and the northern Plains. Bitter cold arctic air will continue to impact the northern tier of the country, stretching from the Pacific Northwest to the upper Midwest," said Kari Strenfel, a Wunderground.com meteorologist.
"Wind chill warnings have already been issued across Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Wyoming, while wind chill advisories are in place across the Plains and the upper Midwest. Below-normal temperatures will also spread across the Great Basin and the Southwest, bringing a chance of late-evening snow showers to the high deserts of Nevada, southern California and northwest Arizona. Upslope flow will aid in producing moderate to heavy snow showers across the Sierra Nevada, the Wasatch and the Rockies. In addition, light rain will be possible over the southern Plains and the lowest elevations of southern California.
"Meanwhile, cold air associated with the aforementioned high-pressure system will move across the Great Lakes on Tuesday. The interaction between the cold arctic air and the relatively warm waters of the Great Lakes will trigger lake effect snow showers across portions of Michigan, northeast Ohio, northwest Pennsylvania and western New York. To the south, a mixture of rain and snow will affect the interior Mid-Atlantic, especially over the southern Appalachians. Light coastal showers will be possible over Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina."
Bone-chilling cold for the most part looks to bypass many of the populous Midwest and eastern markets. Wunderground.com forecasts that Tuesday's high in Omaha, NE, of 10 will reach 36 by Saturday and fall to 19 next Tuesday. The normal high in Omaha is 33. Chicago's 21 high Tuesday will reach 34 by Saturday before dropping to 21 by next Tuesday. The seasonal high in Chicago is 32. New York's 36 high on Tuesday is expected to reach 40 by Saturday before slipping to 31 by next Tuesday. The normal high in the Big Apple for late December is 39.