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Eastern Declines Leave Physical NatGas Market Unchanged; Futures Soft

Physical gas for Wednesday delivery was unchanged on average Tuesday, with broad gains extending from the Gulf, Midcontinent, Rockies and California unable to overcome stout declines in the East and Northeast.

Overall, the market was unchanged at $2.61. Futures trading was uninspired, with the spot July contract confined to a thin 8 cent range, and at the close July had lost 0.7 cent at $2.726 and August was lower by 1.6 cents to $2.746. August crude oil added 63 cents to $61.01/bbl.

Next-day prices in the Northeast fell as next-day peak power prices sported double-digit declines, giving buyers for gas-powered generation little incentive to make incremental purchases. Intercontinental Exchange reported next-day peak power at the New York ISO Zone G delivery point (eastern New York) fell $1.75 to $37.00/MWh and at the ISO New England's Massachusetts Hub next-day peak power dropped $11.95 to $28.31/MWh. At the PJM West Hub terminal, next-day peak power fell $35.73 to $39.39/MWh.

Next-day deliveries to Tennessee Zone 6 200 L fell 41 cents to $2.10, and gas on Iroquois Waddington retreated 4 cents to $2.88. Next-day packages at the Algonquin Citygates changed hand 55 cents lower at $1.96.

Quotes for gas out of the Marcellus were mixed. Deliveries on Millennium rose 3 cents to $1.39, and gas on Transco Leidy came in 2 cents higher at $1.32. Gas on Tennessee Zone 4 Marcellus added 2 cents to $1.26, and packages on Dominion South were seen at $1.39, down 13 cents.

Major market hubs gained. Wednesday gas at the Chicago Citygate added 8 cents to $2.81, and parcels at the Henry Hub were quoted at $2.83, up 6 cents. Gas at Opal rose a nickel to $2.70, and deliveries to the PG&E Citygate rose 9 cents to $3.13.

In a report industry consultant Genscape said Rockies Express Pipeline (REX) would make major cuts in availability Wednesday, but recipients of Midwest gas didn't note any disruptions. According to the report, the REX delivery point to Midwestern Gas Transmission at Edgar will be unavailable while tie-in construction takes place. "The planned maintenance is related to the Zone 3 East to West project and will require REX to shut in over 500 MMcf/d of deliveries to MGT for the gas day." MGT is a major transporter of gas north to Chicago.

Genscape added that "The design capacity of the delivery interconnect is expected to remain at 652 MMcf/d when back online, and REX conducted similar maintenance at the NGPL-Moultrie delivery interconnect last week on June 16. The project was expected to limit capacity to 350 MMcf/d and coincided with the force majeure event on segment 270. As a result, deliveries to NGPL at Moultrie dropped 195 MMcf/d to 294 MMcf/d. Flows were able to bounce back above 450 MMcf/d several days after the restriction; however, the ability to increase flows post-maintenance may have been affected by the ongoing force majeure event.

"When the expansion efforts at NGPL-Moultrie conclude, the design capacity for deliveries will increase from 615 MMcf/d to 1,750 MMcf/d," Genscape said.

A Michigan marketer said, "I don't think it is affecting us. We receive gas on Trunkline and Panhandle, and REX and Midwest don't come up here. That doesn't mean that gas on Trunkline doesn't go to the Chicago market. If gas on Trunkline were diverted to make up a shortfall on Midwest, it could impact us, but you would hope that issue would resolve itself."

No changes were seen in technical support and resistance levels in Tuesday's futures trading. "Today's trade provided no major surprises as support and resistance were both validated at the $2.71 and $2.80 levels, respectively," said Jim Ritterbusch of Ritterbusch and Associates in closing comments to clients.

"However, support violation could be forthcoming tomorrow in view of extended mild temperature forecasts that now stretch through the first week of July. The anticipated mild trends combined with an expected upswing in production next month following maintenance could put some triple-digit storage increases back on the table next month in reviving the dynamic of surplus expansion against five-year average stock levels.

"We are maintaining a neutral trading posture for now, but it would appear that our next position type trade recommendation will be from the long side as the low side of our expected price parameters will likely be achieved first. In other words, we will await a further price drop toward the $2.50 area where we will look to again probe the long side of the market for a trading turn back up toward the $3 area."

Forecast cooling degree days ratcheted lower in overnight model runs. "The latest six-10 day forecast is cooler than the previous forecast across a good portion of the East and is not as hot over the West," said WSI Corp. in its Tuesday morning report. "The north-central U.S. and Plains are warmer. Period PWCDDs are down another 3.5 to 44.9 for the CONUS. Forecast confidence is average as medium-range models are in good agreement and have been fairly consistent with the large-scale pattern. There is localized uncertainty with the timing of cold front(s) and unsettled weather over the eastern half of the nation. The amplified pattern supports a risk to the cooler side over the eastern two-thirds of the nation and the Southwest."

Tom Saal, vice president at FC Stone Latin America LLC, in his work with Market Profile said to look for the market to test Monday's value area at $2.739-2.725 and then test $2.835-2.775. "Maybe" the market will go on to test $2.696-2.670. Saal said that a number of multiple untested value areas "infer market indecision, yet plenty of price volatility."

Consensus views see the natural gas confined to a trading range, but technical indicators show interest in forward pricing. Saal said that forward strips are "overbought" in a Tuesday morning note to clients.

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