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Physical NatGas Gains Outdistance Futures; October Adds More Than A Nickel

Forecasts of elevated heat in both the near and longer term on both the East and West coasts prompted stout gains in physical natural gas for Wednesday delivery as well as futures.

Double-digit gains were common across all market points, and only one location followed by NGI fell into the loss column. NGI's National Spot Gas Average vaulted 18 cents to $2.63, and eastern points posted gains on average close to 40 cents. October futures also gained on forecasts for greater heat. At the close, October had risen 5.5 cents to $2.710 and November was up 5.1 cents to $2.792. October crude oil fell 11 cents to $45.94/bbl.

Along the Eastern Seaboard next-day gas jumped as major population center were forecast to see highs Wednesday close to 20 degrees above normal. AccuWeather.com forecast that the high Tuesday of 95 in Boston would ease to only 92 Wednesday before falling to 80 on Thursday. The seasonal high in Boston is 75. New York City's forecast high of 97 Tuesday was seen easing to 91 Wednesday and 83 by Thursday, 5 degrees above normal. Philadelphia's high of 93 Tuesday was anticipated to fall to just 92 Wednesday and 85 Thursday. The normal high in Philadelphia in early September is 81.

Gas for Wednesday delivery to the Algonquin Citygate shot higher by 68 cents to $3.67, and packages at Iroquois, Waddington rose 14 cents to $3.19. Gas on Tenn Zone 6 200L vaulted 70 cents to $3.53.

Gas on Texas Eastern M-3, Delivery rose a stout 39 cents to $1.63, and gas bound for New York City on Transco Zone 6 scored the day's biggest gain with a $1.06 advance to $2.85.

Gains in spot power also facilitated the decision to purchase incremental gas volumes. Intercontinental Exchange reported that next-day peak power at the ISO New England's Massachusetts Hub rose $24.54 to $56.96/MWh and on peak power Wednesday at the PJM West terminal added 92 cents to $45.88/MWh.

Not to be left out of the price romp higher, West Coast next-day gas added its own set of double-digit gains. AccuWeather.com forecast that the high in Los Angeles Tuesday of 99 would drop to only 96 Wednesday and Thursday. The normal high in Los Angeles at this time of year is 84. Normally pleasant San Diego was expected to see heat as well. Tuesday's 87 high was forecast to reach 89 Wednesday and ease to 87 Thursday. The normal high in San Diego is 77.

Wednesday gas on El Paso S. Mainline/N. Baja soared 36 cents to $2.90, and SoCal Border Avg. deliveries were seen 32 cents higher at $2.85. Gas at the SoCal Citygates rose 35 cents to $3.03.

California next-day power also scored double-digit gains. Intercontinental Exchange reported on-peak power for Wednesday at SP-15 jumped $12.97 to $50.38/MWh and next-day on-peak power at NP-15 added $13.04 to $51.63/ MWh.

"Although Labor Day typically marks the unofficial end of summer, midsummer-like heat will continue to bake the Northeast through Wednesday," said AccuWeather.com meteorologist Kristina Pydynowski. "Summer is going to dig its heels in across the Northeast through the middle of this week as it will feel more like late July or early August rather than September," AccuWeather.com said.

A high-pressure system anchored to the south of the region is responsible for sending the heat northward into the Northeast, it said.

Longer-term weather forecasts also called for warmth. "The biggest changes in the current short workweek include a much hotter California with 100s peaks in Burbank and Sacramento and a cooler Texas to TVA [Tennessee Valley Authority], thanks to a fast, stronger cooler front impact," said Matt Rogers, president of Commodity Weather Group, in a Tuesday morning report to clients. "Similar themes are seen for the Midwest and East, but dry soils are triggering hotter high temperatures in the Northeast ahead of the cold front this week.

"The six-10 day trends warmer for the Midwest compared to yesterday's outlook (partly due to progression), while the 11-15 day also shows a good deal of variability. In both periods, demand is low compared to summer levels as we move into the shoulder season."

Analysts see the bulls on thin ice from a seasonal standpoint. "To be sure, with the Labor Day weekend marking the traditional end of summer, short-term weather demand will no longer provide support to the market," said Teri Viswanath, director of natural gas strategy for BNP Paribas, in closing comments Friday.

"Indeed, a relatively important reset in prices took place following Labor Day last year, when the front October futures contract tumbled $0.175 in the Tuesday trading session following the holiday. Indeed, three out of the last five years have recorded a Labor Day sell-off, with the front of the curve declining by an average $0.05 when the market returns from the three-day weekend."

Longer term, risk managers see the natural gas market improving. "Over the short term, it is difficult to make a case for the gas market to have a substantial move in either direction," said Mike DeVooght, president of DEVO Capital, a Colorado-based trading and risk management firm. "But in our opinion, the gas market could be setting up for a substantial rally. Demand and production for natural gas has been steady, but we feel that we are going to see declines in production.

"It has been our thought that higher oil prices over the past three to four years have been subsidizing natural gas drilling activity. With current oil and natural gas prices, we could see a substantial decline in natural gas production over the next six to 12 months. It will not take a very significant decline in production to drive natural gas prices higher. There is a large short speculative position (that has been in place for the past couple years) that could be forced to cover if gas prices start to rally."

DeVooght is currently standing aside the market but awaiting an opportunity to enter on the long side.

Forecasts by the National Weather Service (NWS) call for well above normal cooling requirements at major population centers for the remainder of the week. For the week ended Sept. 12, NWS predicts New England will see 59 cooling degree days (CDD), or 51 above normal. New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey are expected to endure 63 CDD, or 44 more than normal. The greater Midwest from Ohio to Wisconsin is forecast to see 53 CDD, or 34 more than the seasonal norm.

Over the weekend, Tropical Storm Grace formed in the eastern Atlantic and at 5:00 p.m. EDT Tuesday the National Hurricane Center reported now Tropical Depression Grace was 1,145 miles east of the Lesser Antilles and was moving to the west at 18 mph. Grace was down to 35 mph winds and was projected to head toward the general vicinity of Puerto Rico.

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