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Markets Wrestle With Brexit, Yet NatGas Cash, Futures Move Little

Natural gas for weekend and Monday delivery inched lower in Friday's trading as steady prices in the Gulf, Rockies and Midcontinent were unable to offset weakness in the East, Midcontinent and Midwest. The NGI National Spot Gas average was down 2 cents to $2.48.

Natural gas markets for all intents and purposes were immune, at least in the short term, from the market turmoil surrounding Britain's vote to exit the European Union.

July natural gas fell 3.6 cents to $2.662 and August skidded 4.3 cents to $2.694. August crude oil tumbled $2.47 to $47.64/bbl, as a rising dollar instigated by "Brexit" crushed crude oil and refined products prices.

Longer term impacts of Brexit relative to the natural gas market are unclear, but short term crude oil and products are expected to bear most of the market blows as a rising dollar is a big negative for commodities priced in dollars (see related story). Tim Evans of Citi Futures Perspective anticipates "price battles" ahead, and thinks “Brent will have difficulty regaining the $50 level now." U.S. natural gas, however, "will trade in its own world, with little if any connection with the Brexit drama," he added.

Future prices of U.S. liquefied natural gas will likely be more costly and less competitive. The Dollar Index surged 2.28% to 95.66.

Analysts are focused on the Brexit referendum and its negative implications "on three levels: the U.S. dollar (USD), interest rates, and global trade and mobility," said BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research analysts led by Francisco Blanch. A $39/bbl target for West Texas Intermediate (WTI) by the end of 3Q2016 was reiterated, with "downside risks" to the firm's longer term forecast for $61 Brent.

The BofA economics team also has shaved its outlook for U.S. gross domestic product growth by 0.2% on the back of the vote, and "we also see weaker growth in other countries, namely the UK," Blanch said. A stronger USD "will likely be a drag on all commodities."

Others see the Brexit vote as less centered on financial and economic factors and more focused on politics and culture. "It should be glaring[ly] obvious to everyone by now that the Brexit vote to leave was a decision that was motivated by neither financial nor economic considerations," said United ICAP's Walter Zimmermann in a note to clients. "However it is a big mistake to chalk it up to low brow and uninformed populism."

Zimmermann scored the Brexit vote at EU "Zero, Cultural Integrity 1 and with it a deep look at the collective mood of a nation." He contended that "in this age of aggressive and sustained manipulation of the global financial markets by central banks, the ability of price trends in the equity markets to reflect the collective mood of nations was seriously compromised. [T]he clear goal of central bank manipulation of the financial markets was an attempt to place the mask of a bull over the reality of a bear.

"Prior to QE [Quantitative Easing], stock markets were always driven higher by an upsurge in collective hopes. The unstated but very real mechanics of QE [were] to harness a global upsurge in fear into buying the stock markets. The fear of lower to zero to negative interest rates would drive investors into buying equities. The greater the fear, the higher the equity prices. What a brilliantly devious enterprise! An actual upsurge in global fear would raise equity prices, not collapse them. Well, that hitherto successful attempt at market manipulation stopped working last night. The big problem that I see from here is that the media coverage of the Brexit aftermath has been 100% focused on the financial consequences. This is a serious distraction from what is actually going on here.

"The Brexit vote to 'leave' was neither an economic nor a financial decision. And as long as EU policymakers focus on the financials and the economics, they will have learned nothing. And if the EU policy makers cannot quickly figure out what is going on here, then the EU is truly doomed."

Top natural gas traders are sitting tight as the market consolidates. "From a technical perspective, we will await a close to below the $2.65 mark before expecting any significant downside price follow through," said Jim Ritterbusch of Ritterbusch and Associates in closing comments to clients. "This week's stall in the strong spring price advance has resulted largely from a significant shift in the short term temperature views that have been mainly featured by a significant cool down next week across a broad portion of the U.S. Midcontinent."

"But, while this could force a storage increase toward normal levels next month, the market may still need to deal with another downsized injection next Thursday that could easily fall some 10 Bcf below [last Thursday's] reported upswing. All in all, we remain in a neutral camp for now as we still see a possible renewed advance toward the $2.80 mark should weekend updates to the short term temperature views suggest a renewed hot spell across the Midwest."

Gas buyers across the broad MISO footprint tasked with procuring gas for weekend power generation were faced with high power demand, but they have wind generation available as well.

"A heat alert is in effect, [and] a return southerly flow ahead of a frontal system along the Canadian border will promote a general warming trend during the next couple of days with widespread max temps in the 80s, 90s to near 100 in a few spots," said WSI Corp. in its Friday morning report. "Humidity levels will trend upward into the 60s to low 70s. The frontal system will slowly push a cold front southward across the Mid West during Saturday night through Tuesday with a chance for scattered showers and storms. This will begin to ease back temperatures across the north into the 70s and 80s, while suppressing 90+ temps into MISO South.

"After a lull in wind generation [Friday] morning, a surge of south to west-northwest winds should drive up wind gen...into the weekend. Output will peak 7-9 GW. Wind gen will subside from this peak early next week."

In physical market trading, that frontal system was enough for eastern locations to take a few big hits. Gas on Dominion South tumbled 13 cents to $1.75, and deliveries to Tennessee Zone 4 Marcellus shed 18 cents to $1.60. Gas on Transco-Leidy Line fell 14 cents to $1.65.

Other market centers saw more benign price movement. Gas at the Chicago Citygate shed 2 cents to $2.60, and deliveries to the Henry Hub fell a penny to $2.67. In the Rockies Kern Receipts lost 2 cents to $2.50, and gas at the PG&E Citygate rose a penny to $2.76.

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