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East, West Cash NatGas Diverge; Futures Trek Lower

Physical natural gas for weekend and Monday delivery was a tale of two markets in Friday's trading as quotes in the Northeast rocketed higher on much cooler than normal temperature forecasts and the West suffered double-digit losses amid a weak power environment and a seasonal temperature regime.

The NGI National Spot Gas Average fell 6 cents to $2.32, but eastern points on average jumped more than 40 cents and California skidded just under 20 cents. Futures prices continued to slip slide away with the spot November contract approaching three and a half year lows. November settled at $2.430, down 2.3 cents, and December was off 3.6 cents to $2.650. November crude oil added 88 cents to $47.26/bbl.

By Monday temperatures at major eastern population centers were expected to be about 10 degrees below normal. Forecaster Wunderground.com predicted that the Friday high in both Boston and Hartford, CT, of 60 would drop to 55 by Saturday and 50 by Monday. The seasonal high at both points is 61. New York City was expected to see its high of 62 Friday dip to 55 Saturday and Monday, 9 degrees below normal.

Gas at the Algonquin Citygate jumped $1.87 to $4.81, and gas at Iroquois, Waddington added 5 cents to $2.73. Deliveries to Tennessee Zone 6 200 L vaulted $1.90 to $4.76.

Stout Monday power prices in the Mid-Atlantic gave quotes a boost. Intercontinental Exchange reported that Monday on-peak power at the PJM West terminal rose $13.05 to $48.56/MWh.

Gas for weekend and Monday delivery on Tetco M-3 rose 24 cents to $1.76, and gas bound for New York City on Transco Zone 6 added 10 cents to $2.44.

The National Weather Service in southeast Massachusetts said, "blustery northwest winds and unseasonably chilly air will move in this weekend...with the coldest air of the season from Saturday night through Monday. A hard freeze is expected for much of the region. A quick return to milder temperatures will follow for Tuesday through Thursday."

It was a far different situation on the West Coast where mild temperatures and a soft power pricing environment gave traders little incentive to make three-day purchases. Intercontinental Exchange reported on-peak power Monday at SP-15 eased 23 cents to $36.19/MWh, but other power market locations for ultimate delivery into California were weaker still. Peak power Monday at Mid-Columbia shed $3.08 to $20.94/MWh and power at Palo Verde fell $1.41 to $27.41/MWh.

Gas for weekend and Monday delivery at Malin came in 16 cents lower at $2.27, and gas at the PG&E Citygates fell 8 cents to $2.96. Gas at the SoCal Citygate shed 21 cents to $2.64, and deliveries to SoCal Border points averaged $2.43, down 23 cents. Gas on the El Paso S. Mainline/N. Baja retreated 26 cents to $2.43.

Wunderground forecast that the Friday high in Los Angeles would be a pleasant 76 and that would give way to a 78 high on Saturday and a 75 high on Monday, the seasonal norm. San Francisco's 68 high was seen rising to 69 Saturday and 72 by Monday. The normal high for the City By The Bay is 71.

Natural gas storage now stands at 3,733 Bcf and is already 122 Bcf above last year's injection season high of 3,611 Bcf, while just 196 Bcf below the all-time record storage level of 3,929 Bcf, which was set for the week ending Nov. 2, 2012. With at least three or four more injections expected this season based off of historical injection cycles, 2015 storage levels are likely to eclipse the 2012 record high and threaten the mythical 4 Tcf mark.

Despite the bearish storage report Thursday, analysts still see spot futures migrating back up to as high as $2.70. "[W]ith weather slowly materializing, power loads strong and production soft, we see support for the contract to move back into our target $2.55-2.70/MMBtu price range through end-month, in spite of [Thursday's] bearish report," said Breanne Dougherty, an analyst with Societe Generale in New York. "Our attention now shifts to November. The current December/January premiums over the front-month will shrink, but the dominant direction of the convergence hinges on when (if?) the 4Q production uptick materializes, and weather.

"We see more upside price risk relative to today between now and early December, but would not want to hold much $2.80-plus/MMBtu exposure on core winter contracts beyond that point given the risk of a mid-winter downward price correction in anything other than a cold weather scenario [El Nino?].

"There is no denying that domestic production continues to be the dominant wildcard for near-term fundamentals. While our 14-month production outlook is relatively flat, the view has two distinct parts to it. The first is tied to the current and immediate-term daily production trend; the second, to the larger more structural story line that has emerged this year," she said in a Thursday note to clients.

WSI Corp. in its Friday morning report said, "A cold front will slide across the power pool [Friday] with a slight chance for a few showers. A brisk northwest wind behind this system will usher unseasonably cool high pressure and the coldest air of the season into the power pool during the weekend into the start of next week.

"A west-northwest wind behind the cold front will continue to support elevated wind generation today into early Saturday morning. Output is forecast to range 3-4 GW. Wind gen will decrease and become light during the weekend, but a moderating southerly flow will drive up wind gen output early next week. Output is forecast to climb back to near 4 GW."

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