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Forecast Heat Lifts NatGas Physical Market; Futures Bears Sense More Pain

It took only a relatively moderate change in forecasts to ignite the physical market Monday. In trading for Tuesday natural gas, the majority of points scored robust, double-digit gains as temperature forecasts in major eastern markets were forecast about 5 degrees above normal.

Eastern points led the charge higher with some points recording gains of $1 or more, but average gains in the East and Northeast were closer to 50 cents. The overall market rose 24 cents to $2.43 and only a couple of Marcellus points fell into the loss column. Futures traders attributed the gains to short covering, but noted that the last market advance lasted for six days and took prices over $3.

At the close, July had added 11.5 cents to $2.705, and August had gained 11.6 cents to $2.737. July crude oil fell 99 cents to $58.14/bbl.

Forecasters were calling for temperatures above normal. AccuWeather.com predicted that New York City's high of 79 degrees Monday would reach 82 Tuesday and 83 by Wednesday. The seasonal high in New York for early June is 77. Philadelphia's 86 on Monday was expected to continue Tuesday and Wednesday, 5 degrees above normal. Washington, DC's Monday high of 87 was seen holding Tuesday and climbing to 88 Wednesday. The normal high in DC for this time of year is 82.

Tuesday gas at the Algonquin Citygates jumped 36 cents to $1.55, and gas on Iroquois Waddington gained $1.03 to $2.64. Packages on Tennessee Zone 6 200 L added 55 cents to $1.80.

In the Mid-Atlantic, gas bound for New York City on Transco Zone 6 jumped $1.38 to $2.76, and gas on Tetco M-3 rose 30 cents to $1.45.

The Marcellus was the only area to show losses on the day. Gas on Millennium fell 7 cents to 95 cents, and deliveries to Tennessee Zone 4 Marcellus fell 3 cents to 71 cents. Gas on Transco Leidy, however, rose 32 cents to $1.27, and deliveries to Dominion South rose 32 cents to $1.42.

Other major market hubs managed big gains. At the Henry Hub, next-day gas added 11 cents to $2.67 and gas at the Chicago Citygate rose 16 cents to $2.62. Deliveries to El Paso Permian changed hands 21 cents higher at $2.45, and gas at the PG&E Citygate rose 12 cents to $3.03.

AccuWeather.com forecasters said "the flow of air from Tuesday on will generally be from the west and will allow some of the heat that has built up in the Northwest to be carried eastward. From Georgia to Virginia, the weather pattern much of this week will translate to multiple days with highs in the 90s.

"The bulk of the heat will hit during the middle and latter part of the week,” said AccuWeather.com meteorologist Tod Miner. “After a slight dip in humidity levels across the north into midweek, the humidity will climb in many areas later in the week and into the weekend. Raleigh has only hit 90 F once so far this year, but from Wednesday on, the Triad will have highs of 90 F or higher on a regular basis. Temperatures [adjusted for humidity] will climb several degrees higher than the actual temperature. In parts of the South, [adjusted] temperatures will approach 100 F and will be well into the 90s F in part of the I-95 corridor of the Mid-Atlantic."

Expected power loads also increased. The New York ISO forecast that peak load Monday of 20,361 MW would rise to 21,376 MW Tuesday and 22,716 MW Wednesday. ISO New England said expected maximum load Monday of 15,740 MW would hit 17,350 MW Tuesday before reaching 18,100 MW Wednesday.

Futures traders aren't seeing any lasting market shift. "The last time we were down here we had record short-interest, and that's the only reason I think we are rallying," a New York floor trader told NGI.

"Everyone knows the pain to the upside, so let's see how far it will go. I like buying all the spreads,” buying the deferred month, selling the nearby, “in here, October-January, October -November, but I thought that last time and it rallied for six straight days. It's funny until it is your money.

"With the record short interest, not even $3 is off the table."

The National Weather Service is estimating above-normal cooling requirements for major markets for the week ended June 13. New England is expected to see 30 cooling degree-days (CDD), or 21 above normal; and the Mid-Atlantic including New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey should endure 43 CDD, or 22 above normal. The greater Midwest from Ohio to Wisconsin is forecast to warm to 62 CDD, or 33 above normal.

Market technicians still see the bullish case continuing to lose traction.

"It is 'rally or else time' for natgas bulls with $2.540 the must-hold support and $1.880 the downside risk," said United ICAP Vice President Walter Zimmermann. "Viewed seasonally this is not a great time for natgas bulls. The seasonal pressure for natgas points lower from mid-May to mid-August. It may seem like plenty of time to drop 70 cents from here, but that would also be a 25% loss in value from here. That would be a big move."

Mike DeVooght, president of Colorado’s DEVO Capital Management, a trading and risk management firm, is not taking any positions now to manage client risk. "On a trade basis, we will stand aside for now and will continue to monitor the market," he said note last weekend to clients. He is standing aside for trading accounts, producers and end-users.

FC Stone Latin America LLC’s Tom Saal, vice president, is taking a somewhat more aggressive approach. In his work with Market Profile, he anticipated the market testing last week's value area at $2.665-2.607 and then test $2.883-2.729. “Eventually,” Saal is expecting a test of $3.082-2.986.

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