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NatGas Cash Steady, But Futures Beat A Retreat

Natural gas for Wednesday delivery moved little in Tuesday's trading as the majority of market points scored modest gains of a few pennies, but a few eastern points scored double digit losses.

The NGI National Spot Gas Average rose a penny to $2.71. Futures trading was more active, with the October contract sliding 6.9 cents to $2.827 and November dropping 6.2 cents to $2.949. October crude oil shed 63 cents to $46.35/bbl.

After five straight days of increases last week, futures traders were looking to book some gains. "As of right now it looks like today was some good old long liquidation," said a trader with FCStone Latin America in Miami.

"The market has been supported by warmer forecasts coming out, and the eight- to 14-day forecast supports the notion that September is going to be a little warm, but I think the market is going to wait and see if we have an active hurricane season."

Analysts are circumspect as to whether the two systems, one off the Carolina coast, and another in the eastern Gulf could have much impact. "[T]wo tropical systems could impact the U.S. over the coming days but none expected to reach hurricane strength," said Natgasweather.com in a noon update (see related story).

"Regarding U.S. weather patterns, temperatures are expected to remain warmer than normal east of the Rockies over the medium range but will need close watching for cooler trends going into the second half of September. With temperatures expected to become mostly comfortable after next week, aided by much shorter days, natgas storage builds will gradually become closer to normal, but still remaining below. This will allow surpluses to continue to decrease, just at a slower pace.

"Satellite imagery [Tuesday] morning shows three systems over the tropics, but none very strong. The tropical depression over the Gulf of Mexico is expected to track toward the Florida panhandle, while heavy rain occurs near the Texas Coast. Also of interest are weather systems over the west-central U.S. and one coming into the West Coast with cooling,” Natgasweather.com said.

Analysts are bearish in the near term. "[T]his late stage of the cooling cycle will be taking a lot of steam out of the temperature factor going forward, and the market may become reliant for price strength upon GOM production disruptions due to tropical storm activity," said Jim Ritterbusch of Ritterbusch and Associates in closing comments Monday.

"Several systems are currently churning in the Atlantic and have forced some storm premium into the market. But for now, we don't see a threat to GOM infrastructure. We are maintaining a near-term bearish stance and would suggest holding any short October positions established last week as we continue to suggest close stop protection above $1.93 on a close-only basis."

Overnight model runs changed little. "The models continue to vary on details over the next two weeks, but they all agree that the six-15 day pattern runs warmer than normal nationally with a focus on the Midwest to East as well as the South at times," said Commodity Weather Group in a Tuesday morning report to clients. "One nagging complicating issue on much of this guidance is the potential for additional tropical activity. The GFS [Global Forecast System] ensemble shows a tropical system off the Southeast coast next week that seems to be softening the heat in that area (cooling high temperatures but also softening the heat ridging over the Southeast). The European is in less support and hence, hotter for the Tennessee Valley and Southeast overall," said Matt Rogers, president of the firm.

In physical market trading, New England points jumped as Wednesday highs in Boston were expected 10 degrees above normal. Forecaster Wunderground.com predicted that Tuesday's high in Boston of 78 would reach 87 Wednesday before slipping to 76 on Thursday, one degree below normal.

Gas at the Algonquin Citygate rose 22 cents to $3.18, and deliveries to Iroquois, Waddington rose 6 cents to $3.09. Parcels on Tennessee Zone 6 200 L jumped 27 cents to $3.12.

Deliveries to New York City and points south fell as temperature forecasts held steady. Wunderground.com said the high Tuesday in New York City of 86 degrees would rise to 87 Wednesday before dropping to 81 Thursday, right at the seasonal average.

Gas bound for New York City on Transco Zone 6 fell 17 cents to $1.74, and gas destined for southeasternmost Pennsylvania, Trenton, and southern New Jersey on Transco non-New York North shed 19 cents to $1.70.

Tropical storms are slow to develop and have all the trappings of tempests in a teapot.

At 5 p.m. EDT Tuesday Tropical Depression 8 was headed to coastal North Carolina, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) reported. It was 60 miles south-southeast of Cape Hatteras and was holding 35 mph winds. Movement was to the north-northeast at 5 mph, and NHC issued a Tropical Storm Warning. Some strengthening was expected and it could become a tropical storm overnight.

Tropical Depression 9 was 340 miles west of Key West, FL, and had prompted a Tropical Storm Watch for the Florida Gulf Coast. It continued to hold 35 mph winds and was moving to the west-northwest at 7 mph.

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