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Broad Advance Offsets New England Weakness; Futures Drop A Nickel

Physical gas for Wednesday delivery continued to surge in Tuesday's trading as forecasts continued to call for unrelenting cold and snow.

The gains were broad and pervasive, and only New England locations experienced declines as weather forecasts at some locations called for temperatures to moderate to above-normal levels. Gains of 20 cents or more were common, and despite multi-dollar setbacks in the Northeast, the overall market gain was a stout 69 cents to an average $5.49.

Futures retreated from a firm open. At the close, March was off 4.5 cents to $2.759 and April had fallen 3.3 cents to $2.779. March crude oil reversed early losses and added 75 cents to $53.53/bbl.

The Mid-Atlantic saw some of the day's sharpest gains as next-day peak power prices surged. Intercontinental Exchange reported that peak power for Wednesday delivery at the PJM West terminal soared $38.34 to $123.90/MWh and peak Wednesday power at the ISO New England's Massachusetts Hub rose $13.08 to $165.51/MWh.

Gas bound for New York City on Transco Zone 6 zoomed $18.98 to $37.04, and packages on Tetco M-3 rose $4.13 to $19.54.

Marcellus locations posted double-digit gains. Gas on Tennessee Zone 4 Marcellus was seen 29 cents higher at $1.56, and deliveries on Transco Leidy came in up 27 cents to $1.69. Parcels on Dominion South changed hands 58 cents higher at $3.03.

New England locations eased despite record-setting snowfall in some locations. AccuWeather.com reported that in Hanover, NH, Tuesday's high of 37 degrees was expected to reach a "toasty" 43 Wednesday and 44 on Thursday. The seasonal high in Hanover is 39. Boston's Tuesday high of 23 was forecast to reach 28 Wednesday before retreating to 26 on Thursday. The normal high in Boston is 39. Hartford, CT's Tuesday high of 20 was seen rising to 28 Wednesday before dropping back to 21 on Thursday. The seasonal high in Hartford is 40.

Gas delivered to the Algonquin Citygates shed $2.14 to $21.37, and gas at Iroquois Waddington fell $7.37 to $13.83. Gas on Tennessee Zone 6 200 L fell $4.87 to $18.85.

Prices in producing zones saw prices rise by double-digits as well. Gas on Transco Zone 3 rose 23 cents to $2.97, and gas at the Henry Hub added 22 cents as well to $2.95. Parcels at Carthage rose 23 cents to $2.87, and at Katy Wednesday gas was quoted at $2.75, up 14 cents.

Industry consultant Genscape sees the possibility of new record demand at eastern points. In a report it said, "New demand records could be established this week in Appalachia and New England, and demand in other markets east of the Mississippi will be strong through this week. Demand is strong as bitter cold temperatures moved into the eastern half of the U.S. during the weekend and are forecast to remain below seasonal norms through this week."

It added that forecasters show Chicago having a high of just 7 degrees on Wednesday and 3 degrees on Thursday, far below the normal high of 37.

"Temperatures are not forecast to return to normal until the end of the month. Genscape's demand forecast has Midwest demand hovering near 16 Bcf/d through Thursday. The Arctic air mass will then move east and southward. Daytime highs in New York and Boston are forecast to run as much as 20 degrees F below seasonal norms by Friday. New England demand is currently projected to exceed 4.5 Bcf/d on Friday, well in excess of the all-time single-day high of 4.21 Bcf/d set on Feb. 2."

Kari Strenfel, a meteorologist at Wunderground.com, said, "An area of low pressure will move east northeastward over the southern Mid-Atlantic and the western Atlantic. This system will usher a mixture of rain, freezing rain and snow over the Tennessee Valley, the Southeast and the Mid-Atlantic on Tuesday [with] light snow showers developing over the eastern Ohio Valley, the northern Mid-Atlantic and southern New England. In addition, a cold frontal boundary extending across the southern tier of the country will generate rain and thunderstorms over the central and eastern Gulf Coast. A mixture of rain and snow will also be possible over the southern Plains and the southern Rockies."

Longer term, the cold is expected to continue. The weather pattern continues to be dominated by bone-rattling cold for the eastern two-thirds of the country for the next two weeks, according to forecasters. Commodity Weather Group in its Tuesday morning outlook said, "Impressive [energy] demand gains this week and next are the big story as the strongest cold of the winter dominates the Midwest to East especially. The cold outbreak over the past weekend delivered an impressive result, building confidence that the next few [outbreaks] in this pattern chain will also be strong performers, especially an impending Arctic surge in just the new few days with deep sub-zero lows expected for Chicago and more single digits for the East Coast.

"The overnight models held pretty close on the concepts of a cold-dominated current week extending into next week with significant national demand gains from last Friday. However, the guidance continues to grapple with a varying moderation pace for early March. We have been taking the middle ground approach on this by favoring the shift, but adding caution owing to the lingering powerful cold air supply (and snow cover). Our view is slower than the Euro but faster than the GFS," said Matt Rogers, president of the firm.

Market technicians are not fully convinced that even with the market's stout 9-cent advance on Friday that conditions are in place for a sustained advance. "Did the bulls just salvage the case for bottoming action?" said Brian LaRose, market analyst with United ICAP. "Technically, Friday's rally represents redemption for the bulls after Thursday's meltdown. But there is still work to do. In price terms, bulls still need to get above both $3.034 (0.236 of 4.544-2.567) and $3.494 (0.236 of 6.493-2.567) just to suggest a bottom. To confirm a bottom is in place, $3.789 must then be breached," he said in Friday closing comments.

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