Physical natural gas prices for Tuesday delivery bounded higher Monday as traders dealt with weather patterns more reminiscent of January than April. Outside the Northeast, most points tallied gains of a nickel to a dime, but eastern locations and New England in particular lifted the National Avg. by more than 20 cents.
The NGI National Spot Gas Average rose 21 cents to $1.95, and moves in the Northeast averaged over 75 cents higher. The strength in the cash market was able to resonate to a degree with the futures, and May gained 4.2 cents to $1.998 while June added 3.8 cents to $2.090. May crude oil retreated $1.09 to $35.70/bbl.
Demand in the Northeast was forecast to jump 22% Tuesday. According to industry consultant Genscape Inc., demand in the Northeast from Ohio and West Virginia to Maine was seen rising from 16.24 Bcf/d to 19.86 Bcf/d.
Prices in the Northeast responded accordingly. Gas at the Algonquin Citygate surged $2.98 to $5.72, and deliveries to Iroquois, Waddington jumped 56 cents to $2.67. Deliveries to Tenn Zone 6 200L vaulted $3.45 to $6.39.
Gas bound for New York City on Transco Zone 6 rose 30 cents to $2.01, and packages on Texas Eastern M-3, Delivery gained 30 cents to $1.79.
Surging power prices also added support to the price of gas used for power generation. Intercontinental Exchange reported next-day on-peak power at the Indiana Hub jumped $6.25 to $30.50/MWh, and power delivered Tuesday to the PJM West terminal rose $4.76 to $37.90/MWh. Next-day on-peak power at the ISO New England's Massachusetts Hub soared $12.36 to $49.21/MWh.
Futures traders were circumspect about the day's advance and whether it might have staying power.
"Above $2.01 would have been a better close," a New York floor trader told NGI. "The market struggled to tap into resistance at $2.08 and never really made it there. It also failed to close over $2.01 and the market is in a precarious area."
He said the market had an uncanny tendency that "whenever it’s colder in New York, that will give the natural gas a pop. I don't know if this is a true rally, or just a short-term spec play."
The short-term weather picture in major Midwest and eastern markets caught market bulls' attention.
"An area of low pressure will move across the Mid-Atlantic on Monday, while a Pacific system affects the Northwest," said Wunderground.com meteorologist Kari Strenfel. "A low-pressure system will move in an eastward trajectory across the lower Great Lakes, the Mid-Atlantic and the western Atlantic.
“Temperatures will struggle to climb above the freezing mark from the upper Mississippi Valley to the Northeast. Snow showers will develop across portions of the upper Midwest, New York and New England. A mixture of rain and snow will spread across the northern Mid-Atlantic. In addition, light showers will develop over the Ohio Valley, the Tennessee Valley, the eastern Tennessee Valley and the Mid-Atlantic."
Those cooler temperatures are expected to carry over into the longer term as well.
"Cooler trends continue in the 11-15 day period with greater coverage of belows across the Midwest while seasonal temperatures are still expected across the East," said MDA Weather Services in its Monday morning report.
The cooler outlook is “supported by the continued negative phases” of the Arctic Oscillation, North American Oscillation and the Eastern Pacific Oscillation, “but those signals are weaker than in the six-10 day period, limiting confidence in the intensity and duration of belows.”
Also, the Western Pacific Oscillation signal with cool/wet conditions in the Southwest “may be a limiting factor of cold in the Midwest.” The forecast falls between the cooler European model and the less cooler Global Forecast System, “with coolest conditions seen early in the period."
Risk managers, for the moment, are sitting tight.
"We had a small cold front move through this past week across the Midwest that may cause a bump in demand this next week," said DEVO Capital President Mike DeVooght. “Overall, we still feel that El Nino produced a warmer than normal winter, and there is a good chance we could experience above-average temperatures this summer. As for the next couple months, we expect natural gas not to have any significant moves one way or another. On a trading basis we are standing on the sidelines for now."
This might fall into the category of "nice work if you can get it," but DeVooght suggested that producers sell the April-October strip at $2.70 should the opportunity arise. The strip settled Friday at $2.167.