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NatGas Cash Zigs as Futures Zag; December Eases 4 Cents

Next-day gas staged a strong advance Tuesday as traders keyed in on early futures-driven strength from weather forecasts calling for a slight cooling in the near term.

No point tracked by NGI fell into the loss column, and with only a few exceptions all other points scored healthy double-digit gains. Marcellus points continued their trek higher, and the NGI National Spot Gas Average rose 17 cents to $2.33.

Futures opened on a firm note, but the lofty prices reached Monday ultimately proved unsustainable and prices subsided. At the close December was down 4.0 cents to $2.709 and January had given up 5.2 cents to $2.885. December crude oil romped higher by $2.49 to $45.81/bbl.

Near-term weather outlooks turned slightly cooler in the six- to 10-day period. "The big picture held steady state [Tuesday] with a transient cool to cold push in the six- to 10-day following a big cold front this weekend," said Commodity Weather Group in its Tuesday morning report to clients.

"The short range one- to five-day comes in slightly warmer than yesterday for the Midwest, East, South, while the six- to 10-day edges slightly cooler to colder for the Midwest to South, while holding flat in the East Coast (cooler early next week, then warmer toward the middle). The West sees mostly warmer changes for that six- to 10-day also. While we continue to lean more toward the European ensemble side, the American and Canadian versions are colder than our outlook and a risk to watch," said Matt Rogers, president of the firm.

"I would put near-term technical resistance at $2.82 and support at $2.64," a New York floor trader told NGI. "This market just feels heavy to me."

Traders doing Marcellus deals wasted no time bidding prices higher in light of the supportive weather outlooks. Numerous points reached one-year highs. Gas on Dominion North exceeded its one-year high from Monday and added 8 cents to $2.04, and Dominion South gained a dime to $2.02, surpassing its one-year high of $1.92.

Gas priced on Tennessee Zone 4 Marcellus came in 9 cents higher at $1.93, easily surpassing its one-year high of $1.85. Gas on Transco-Leidy Line passed yesterday's one-year high by adding 7 cents to $1.99.

Major market centers posted even stouter gains. Gas at the Chicago Citygate added 18 cents to $2.40, and deliveries to the Henry Hub vaulted 27 cents to $2.49. Gas on Panhandle Eastern rose 14 cents to $2.23, and packages priced at the SoCal Border Avg. Average rose 9 cents to $2.29.

West coast prices didn't participate in the day's advance nearly to the extent other major markets point did, but that did not surprise West Coast traders. "It's a pretty bearish situation out here," said an observer with EnergyGPS. "There is pretty significant wind output in California and low [power] demand on the system."

Traders see the risk-reward balance tilted in favor of higher prices. "This market is seeing upside follow-through from yesterday's approximate 4% gains per nearest futures," said Jim Ritterbusch of Ritterbusch and Associates in a Tuesday morning report to clients. "The price upswing is being accompanied by strengthening time spreads that appear to be pricing in a substantial uptick in next day Henry Hub gas pricing as temperatures turn much colder later this week and into next.

"While we feel that it is premature to call an end to this dramatic one-month bear move, especially since our indicators still suggest downside possibilities to the $2.40 area, the 2017 futures contracts now appear to possess more upside than downside price risk. But we would note that the severity of upcoming colder trends appears limited at the present time and will auger in favor of orderly price advances as seen this week rather than a dramatic price up-spike."

Market technicians see the market poised for a healthy move higher, though not exceeding earlier highs.

"In Elliott Wave terms, the market is right on a break point," said United ICAP Vice President Walter Zimmermann in closing comments Monday. "If it breaks higher from here, it definitely creates room to the upside. Any further upside and we will have a bear market correction of the most recent leg down."

He said the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries "and the strong dollar are likely to be in the way of new market highs. Cold weather will not solve the problem. The U.S. dollar is going to have to stop skyrocketing.

"Conservatively, I think we could see anything from $2.94 to $3.04," he said.

The National Hurricane Center in its 1 p.m. EST Tuesday report said it was following a broad area of low pressure over the southwest Caribbean. It rated the chance of tropical storm formation in the succeeding five days at 80%.

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