With the exception of New England and the Mid-Atlantic, next-day gas markets only moved a few pennies Tuesday, with the Midwest, Midcontinent, Gulf Coast, Rockies and California generally gaining less than a nickel.
Firm next-day power markets and severe pipeline restrictions in New England, however, lifted quotes as much as $2, and the overall market added 17 cents to $2.60.
Futures markets trudged higher, with traders noting slow trading and no market-moving events that would prompt a movement out of recent trading ranges. At the close, May was up 3.0 cents to $2.680 and June was 2.7 cents higher at $2.725. May crude oil continued its exuberant move higher, adding $1.84 to Monday's $3 advance and settling at $53.98/bbl.
Next-day gas prices at New England points jumped as Algonquin Gas Transmission (AGT) reported curtailments of deliveries west of its Stony Point, Southeast and Cromwell compressor stations. Restrictions at its Cromwell facility were especially severe. "AGT has restricted 100% interruptible, 100% secondary out of path and 100% secondary in path nominations sourced from points west of its Cromwell Compressor Station for delivery to points east of Cromwell. No increases in nominations sourced from points west of Cromwell for delivery to points east of Cromwell, except for Primary Firm No-Notice nominations, will be accepted," the company said on its website.
Next-day deliveries at the Algonquin Citygates jumped $2.37 to $6.61, and deliveries to Iroquois Waddington added 5 cents to $3.01. Packages on Tennessee Zone 6 200 L rose $2.10 to $6.29.
"That's crazy. Wow," said a former trader and industry pipeline veteran. "We would have some problems like that [with Algonquin] when our firm transport, which we had for our retail customers, would be curtailed and we would have to keep nominating each cycle and the gas would flow, but you would have to worry about it not flowing at the end of the day. Then we would have to go buy some gas to cover it."
Prices were also firm at other eastern points. Gas bound for New York City on Transco Zone 6 gained 78 cents to $2.79, and parcels on Tetco M-3 rose 46 cents to $2.23.
Advances at Marcellus locations also outpaced the overall market average. Gas on Millennium rose 19 cents to $1.82, and deliveries on Transco Leidy were seen 16 cents higher at $1.78. Gas on Tennessee Zone 4 Marcellus gained 6 cents to $1.65, and gas on Dominion South changed hands a stout 23 cents higher at $1.86.
Intercontinental Exchange reported that Wednesday peak power at the ISO New England's Massachusetts Hub jumped $17.01 to $55.76/MWh and next-day peak power at the PJM West terminal added $4.34 to $40.67/MWh.
Temperature readings along the Atlantic Seaboard were expected to be uncommonly cold. Forecaster Wunderground.com predicted the Tuesday high in Boston of 41 would hold Wednesday before sliding to 39 Thursday. The normal early April high in Boston is 53. New York's Tuesday high of 57 was predicted to drop to 45 Wednesday before climbing to 46 Thursday, 12 degrees below normal.
The National Weather Service in southeast Massachusetts said, "a cold front will remain stalled south of Long Island through midweek as disturbances ripple along it. This will bring unseasonably cool temperatures and periods of rain or mixed precipitation to southern New England through early Thursday. A warm front pushes through the region late Thursday allowing for rain and moderating temperatures into Friday. Cold front swings through early Saturday morning followed by high pressure for the weekend."
Overnight weather models changed little, with only a slight increase in estimated energy demand. "No major forecast shifts are noted overnight, but we did see some net warmer changes in the Midwest for next week, while some cooler changes hit there for the 11-15 day with building model support for another pattern shift," said Matt Rogers, president of Commodity Weather Group, in a Tuesday morning forecast.
Rogers data suggests that there may be some late-April cooling, "for today, though, when combining heating and cooling degree day changes together, we estimate there to be a slight demand gain to the forecast from yesterday, but these changes are all quite small."
Futures traders didn't see great significance in the day's move. "We are still stuck in the broader trading range of $2.50 to $3.00," said a New York floor trader. "If the other markets weren't up the way they were, natural gas might even be down today."
Analysts see a relatively balanced market but still see conditions in place that could lead to a price decline of as much as 20 cents.
"The market advanced enough [Tuesday] to offset most of yesterday's gains and this type of seesaw price activity is likely to continue through tomorrow until Thursday's EIA report offers additional guidance," said Jim Ritterbusch of Ritterbusch and Associates in closing comments. Our expected 8 Bcf injection would further narrow the deficit against five-year averages from about 190 Bcf to 180 Bcf with the supply shortfall possibly being erased by next month. But, while we view this dynamic as capable of pushing nearby futures to about the $2.50 area, we are still having difficulty building a case for sustainable price declines to below this level.
"As we have cautioned in the oil, capturing the final 5-6% of a dramatic bear or bull market is always the most difficult portion of the move to achieve and this expected decline into fresh low territory will prove no exception. The weather factor appears tilted slightly bullish but doesn't appear sufficient to sustain the price support of the past four sessions."