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Firm Screen, Weather, Constraints Prompt Broad Physical NatGas Gains; Futures Gain Ground

Physical natural gas for Tuesday delivery posted stout gains in Monday's trading as a combination of a firm screen, pipeline constraints and above-normal temperature patterns in the Northeast, and hefty generation forecasts on the West Coast all tugged prices higher.

The NGI National Spot Gas Average rose 10 cents to $2.27, and eastern points on average traded another 2 cents higher. Futures trading was not nearly so bold, and prices were contained within a narrow range. At the close, November had gained 3.3 cents to $2.535 and December was up 3.4 cents to $2.752. November crude oil plunged $2.53 to $47.10/bbl.

In the Northeast, next-day forecast temperatures called for readings about 10 degrees above normal. Wunderground.com predicted that the high in Boston Monday of 72 would reach 73 Tuesday before sliding to 67 Wednesday, 4 degrees above normal. Other population centers, however, were expected to be right at normal. New York City's Monday high of 78 was seen dropping to 71 Tuesday and 68 Wednesday, 3 degrees above normal. Chicago's Monday high of 72 was predicted to slide to 62 Tuesday but reach 65 Wednesday. The seasonal high in Chicago is 64.

Next-day gas at the Algonquin Citygate rose 17 cents to $2.66, and gas at Iroquois, Waddington gained 12 cents to $2.63. Gas on Tenn Zone 6 200L rose 21 cents to $2.60.

Algonquin Gas Transmission (AGT) reported a number of constraints on the system. It said on its website that it "has restricted 100% interruptible and approximately 93% secondary out of path nominations" that exceed entitlements sourced from points west of its Stony Point Compressor Station for delivery to points east of Stony Point. "No increases in nominations sourced from points west of Stony Point for delivery to points east of Stony Point, except for Primary Firm No-Notice nominations, will be accepted."

In addition, "AGT has restricted 100% interruptible and approximately 85% secondary out of path nominations that exceed entitlements 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."

Packages on Texas Eastern M-3, Delivery jumped 21 cents to $1.03, and deliveries to Transco Zone 6 NY added 18 cents to $2.40.

The New York ISO reported forecast peak load of 18,928 MW would rise to 19,055 MW Tuesday before easing to 18,751 MW Wednesday.

Increased loads and higher next-day power contributed to a firm West Coast gas market. The California Independent System Operator forecast that peak Tuesday power would reach 39,810 MW, up from 38,074 MW Monday.

Next-day gas at Malin gained 13 cents to $2.45, and deliveries to the PG&E Citygate added a nickel to $3.02. At the SoCal Citygate, Tuesday parcels were quoted at $2.83, up 10 cents, and at the SoCal Border gas changed hands at $2.62, up 12 cents. Gas on El Paso S. Mainline/N. Baja rose 16 cents to $2.70.

Next-day power within California and at delivery points nearby gained. Intercontinental Exchange reported on-peak power for Tuesday delivery at NP-15 rose $1.93 to $43.93/MWh and power at SP-15 added $2.44 to $44.82/MWh.

At COB, next-day peak power rose $3.75 to $30.58/MWh, and Tuesday power at Four Corners gained $2.67 to $32.67/MWh.

The recent futures settlements have traders looking for follow-through. "I think we'll have to get a couple of settles above [$2.50], but let's see what happens tomorrow," a New York floor trader told NGI. "We are still stuck in these ranges. $2.40 support on the downside, and $2.60 initial resistance, but we've been there and done that."

Overnight weather models ratcheted cooler in the near term. "[Monday's] forecast is much cooler than Friday's forecast during the front half of the period over the eastern two-thirds of the nation. The interior West and central U.S. is warmer, mainly late in the period," said forecaster WSI Corp. in its Monday morning report. "PWCDDs are down 1 to 10. GWHDDs jumped up 6.2 to 49.7.

"Forecast confidence is average as medium-range models are in good agreement with the changeable pattern. However, because there are plenty of moving parts and it is a very changeable pattern, confidence levels are limited. The forecast can sway in either direction. The Northeast, Southwest and even the north-central U.S. have risks to the cooler side. The West Coast and south-central U.S. could run warmer, mainly late in the period."

Risk managers and traders are waiting for a spot to establish a long market position. "With moderate temperatures throughout much of the U.S., it is difficult to make a bullish argument for natural gas prices," said Mike DeVooght, president of DEVO Capital Management, in a weekend note to clients. "As we look forward to the heat season, which can often be supportive to the gas market, demand expectations have been ratcheted lower because of the El Nino.

"On a trade basis, we have been looking for an opportunity to get long the natural gas market but have not felt like we have yet reached the bottom of this move. We would start to be a light buyer if January reaches the $2.50 level."

In Friday's trading January settled at $2.857.

Bespoke Weather Services, a Harrison, NY-based weather trading firm, is looking for the cooler weather to lift the market, at least temporarily. "An impressive short-/medium-­range cold shot should support prices through the coming week. However, long-­term indications are that the pattern warms back up, limiting any potential rally through the week," the firm said in a weekend note to clients.

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