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NatGas Cash Surges, Tumbles, But Futures Ride One-Way Train Lower

The physical natural gas market almost turned schizophrenic Friday, with large gains and losses the rule.

When the dust settled the NGI National Spot Gas average had fallen 12 cents to $2.53. Near-term weather forecasts called for an early taste of winter, but longer-term outlooks called for fewer degree days.

Futures took it on the chin as well, with November dropping 14.8 cents to $2.993 and December giving up 7.5 cents to $3.361. December crude oil gained 22 cents to $50.85/bbl.

New England points scored $1-plus gains as near-term weather changed. "A dramatic change to colder weather, and in some cases a taste of winter with snow, will take place into this weekend following summerlike conditions in the northeastern United States," said AccuWeather.com meteorologist Alex Sosnowski. "The colder air was making slow progress across the Midwest prior to the end of the week. However, the cold push will accelerate and reach the Appalachians during Friday night and then the Atlantic Seaboard on Saturday.”

Weekend and Monday gas at the Algonquin Citygate jumped 94 cents to $2.52, and gas on Iroquois, Waddington added 77 cents to $2.62. Packages on Tenn Zone 6 200L zoomed $1.11 to $2.55.

"Shorts and short-sleeve weather will be replaced by conditions requiring long-sleeves and layered clothing, including coats, hats and even gloves, for those spending time outdoors at area football games. Some people may have to put their heat on for the first time this season. For those heating with firewood, be sure to bring wood in ahead of the rain to keep it dry. Record-challenging high temperatures in the 70s and 80s F will be replaced by highs in the 40s and 50s," Sosnowski said.

Major market centers did not fare nearly as well. Gas at the Chicago Citygate tumbled 24 cents to $2.83, and gas at the Henry Hub shed 22 cents to $2.87. Gas on El Paso Permian fell 29 cents to $2.62, and weekend and Monday gas at the SoCal Citygate gave up 30 cents to $2.88.

Futures traders joined in the selling as well. November futures opened floor trading a stout 7 cents lower and continued lower from there as weather models once again turned milder. "[Friday's] 11-15 day forecast is warmer than the previous forecast over the southern and eastern U.S. The West is a bit cooler," said WSI Corp. in a Friday morning report to clients. "PWCDDs are up one for Days 11-14 but are only forecast to be 7.3 for the period. GWHDDs are down 2.9 and are now forecast to be 47.9, which are 23.5 below average. Forecast confidence is only average due to model spread during the end of the six-10 day period and some uncertainty with the evolution/persistence of the Pacific flow."

"This market is seeing a surprisingly strong bout of selling this week as mild temperature forecasts are now being stretched well into the first week of November in suggesting some normal storage injections for a couple of weeks until peak supply is established," said Jim Ritterbusch in a Friday note to clients. "Although the narrowing in the supply surplus against averages was sustained per yesterday’s EIA, the contraction was comparatively modest at only 7 Bcf. Given forecasts looking out over the next two weeks, we would expect a couple of injections proximate to five-year averages within the next two to three EIA releases. However, a supply excess of only around 5% could easily be erased by year’s end should the month of December prove to be unusually cold amidst a significant downsized pace of production.

"While a record supply could keep the money managers rotating back into the short side of this market well into next week’s trade, we are having difficulty constructing a scenario that would carry values much below today’s price bottom at our expected support at 3.07. But at the same time, we will avoid the ‘falling knife’ syndrome as we caution against attempts to pick a bottom to this week’s hard price selloff. We will instead await weekend updates to the six-14 day temperature outlooks before probing the long side of the December futures in next week’s trade. As nearby carrying charges expand, the December futures will require more time to test our expected support that we have defined as existing at the $3.35 level."

Gas buyers with the responsibility of making incremental purchases for power generation across PJM over the weekend should have their hands full. According to WSI, "A storm system will continue to traverse the power pool during the next one to two days, with rounds of rain and showers. This will lead to highly variable and changeable conditions [Friday], but the Mid-Atlantic will remain mild and humid with max temps in the 60s and 70s. Eventually a brisk northwest wind with gusts in excess of 40 mph behind the departing system will usher a much cooler, Canadian air mass into the power pool by Saturday.

"A north-northwest wind behind the aforementioned storm system and trailing cold front will lead to prolonged period of elevated wind generation through Monday. Output is forecast to range near 2-4 GW," WSI said in a Friday morning report.

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