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Eastern Weakness Overrides Otherwise Firm Market; Futures Gain Ground

Physical gas for Wednesday delivery was mixed in Tuesday’s trading as eastern points remained under the influence of stout natural gas imports, prompting lower New England and eastern quotes by several dollars.

Those losses were able to offset gains of a few pennies in the Gulf, Rockies, Midwest and Midcontinent. Overall, the market fell 28 cents.

Futures managed a gain largely as the result of some changes in some short-term weather forecasts and a sympathetic move in concert with surging petroleum prices. At the close, March was higher by 7.4 cents to $2.754 and April had risen 7.6 cents to $2.757. March crude oil vaulted $3.48 to $53.05/bbl.

New England and the East saw spot prices post multi-dollar lows.

Next-day gas at the Algonquin Citygates tumbled $2.74 to $8.22, and gas at Iroquois Waddington fell $2.66 to $4.76. On Tennessee Zone 6 200 L, next-day packages were seen at $8.13, down $2.55.

Gas bound for New York City on Transco Zone 6 tumbled $5.20 to $3.74, and gas on Tetco M-3 lost 92 cents to $3.14.

In the Marcellus, prices were mixed. Gas on Millennium East Pool added 8 cents to $1.53, and deliveries to Transco Leidy Line added a penny to $1.26. Parcels on Tennessee Zone 4 Marcellus were flat at $1.20. On Dominion South, gas changed hands at $2.10, down 9 cents.

According to analysts, imports of LNG have kept New England and eastern quotes in check. “AGT basis climbed to just $10.01 in Friday’s trading for Monday’s flows. This is more than $0.30 lower than this winter’s price peak, said industry consultant Genscape in a report.

“When the previous demand high was set on Jan. 7, basis stayed under $10. The lack of basis blowouts and demand growth have been served by increased volumes from LNG. Sendout from Everett to interstate pipelines has climbed back above 100 MMcf/d, and Algonquin receipts from Excelerate reached a winter-to-date high of 323 MMcf/d.

“While Everett and Excelerate have been serving the New England market, traditional New England LNG imports from Canada’s Canaport terminal continue their annual decline. Winter-to-date receipts from Canaport have totaled just 8.89 Bcf, a 4.9 Bcf decline from last winter-to-date’s rate, and 30.8 Bcf below the peak set in Winter 2010-11.”

Market analysts are on the lookout for a change in weather forecasts amid an overall bearish price landscape. "This market has failed to share in the strong oil price advance of the past couple of sessions given its closer connection to the weather factor and due to a stall in the gas rig count reduction that have contrasted sharply with the dramatic plunge in the oil rigs," said Jim Ritterbusch of Ritterbusch and Associates in closing comments to clients on Monday.

"All signs appear to be flashing green for a further lift in gas production through the spring and into the summer period. Although year over year output gains will begin declining as the year proceeds, a record output pace will still represent a formidable bearish force that will be elevating storage injections across the spring and summer period on virtually a weekly basis.

"Weekend updates to the short-term temperature views didn't show much change from Friday, and we view the market as entering a period of time in which neutral-moderately cold temperature views will be considered bearish given this advanced stage of the heating cycle. The market is also being forced to factor in another sharply downsized storage figure per this Thursday's Energy Information Administration report that could potentially represent about half of the decline seen last year during the final week of January. Given this implied sharp expansion in the year over year surplus, piecing together a meaningful price advance anywhere close to last week's highs could prove difficult.

"Nonetheless, we can't rule out a rebound to as high as $2.80 should the forecasts shift or Thursday's supply draw miss average street ideas by more than 10-15 Bcf. Overall, we still see a solid dynamic of record production establishing a supply surplus by late February or early March in providing a sizable base with which to begin the injection cycle. We are maintaining a bearish stance for now in anticipation of a further price decline to the $2.50 area. We are also looking for the front February-March switch to swing to a contango to as much as 2 cents by week's end."

Power generators working within the broad MISO footprint may be able to temper their purchases of natural gas by midweek if forecast wind generation proves correct. WSI Corp. in its Tuesday morning forecast said, "High pressure will depart [Tuesday] allowing another arctic cold front and wave of low pressure to sweep across the north-central U.S. during the next couple of days with a couple of rounds of light snow. Another surge of unseasonably cold arctic air will likely pour into the power pool during Wednesday into Thursday.

"However, a southwest wind around departing high pressure and ahead of another cold front may lead to fair weather and a quick warm-up by Friday. Another cold front and ripple of low pressure may traverse the power pool as the weekend progresses with a chance of snow, mix and even rain.

"Light wind generation is expected today, but a boost of wind generation is expected during Wednesday. Output may climb to near 7-8 GW. After a brief drop-off, a gusty southwest wind should support a more prolonged period of strong wind generation during the end of the week. Output may occasionally push 8-9 GW," the firm said.

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