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Forecast Cooler Temps See NatGas Bulls Looking Past $3; December Adds 11 Cents

Next-day natural gas romped higher in Monday's trading as wintry conditions and below normal temperatures brought buyers off the bench and sent next-day prices higher by double-digits. The NGI National Spot Gas Average rose a stout 30 cents to $2.75.

One point followed by NGI was unchanged, but all other posted hefty double-digit gains. Marcellus points continued to post new one-year highs.

Below normal temperatures were forecast into mid-week, and futures traders paid attention. At the close December was up 10.7 cents to $2.950, and January was higher by 9.7 cents to $3.077. The expired December crude oil ended up $1.80 to $47.79/bbl.

Eastern prices posted the day's strongest gains as a broad pattern of below-normal temperatures from the Midwest to New England was forecast to take hold into the middle of the week.

Accuweather.com forecast that Boston's Monday high of 40 degrees would reach 45 Tuesday and Wednesday, below the seasonal norm of 49. New York City was expected to endure a Tuesday high of 45 following Monday's 43, and by Wednesday temperatures were expected to make it 48, 4 degrees off its seasonal pace. Chicago's Monday high of 37 was seen rising to 45 Tuesday and Wednesday, one degree below normal.

Gas at the Algonquin Citygate rose 73 cents to $3.90, and deliveries to Iroquois, Waddington rose 51 cents to $3.31. Gas on Tenn Zone 6 200L added 43 cents to $3.72.

Mid-Atlantic prices also participated in the unabashed buying. Gas on Texas Eastern M-3, Delivery gained 24 cents to $2.55, and deliveries to New York City on Transco Zone 6 jumped 52 cents to $2.93.

Major market centers were higher as well. Gas at the Chicago Citygate rose 26 cents to $2.82, and deliveries to the Henry Hub added 22 cents to $2.80. Gas on El Paso Permian gained 39 cents to $2.62, and gas priced at the PG&E Citygate rose a hefty 45 cents to $3.29.

West Coast prices jumped, supported by firm next-day power pricing. Intercontinental Exchange reported that on-peak power at COB (California Oregon Border) rose $5.25 to $24.67/MWh, and next-day power at SP-15 gained $3.08 to $32.61/MWh.

Packages at Malin rose 43 cents to $2.71, and gas at the SoCal Citygate jumped 38 cents to $2.98. Gas priced at the SoCal Border Avg. Average rose 46 cents to $2.79, and Kern Delivery was up 43 cents to $2.78.

Futures traders were impacted.

"I think the cold weather has reversed everything and traders will attempt the $3 range," a New York floor trader told NGI. "I think $3.28 to $3.30 would be a realistic high, but don't be fooled. There are several pockets of resistance along the way. There is resistance at $3.16, $3.20 and big resistance at $3.22."

In the near-term, both fundamentals and technicals are starting to converge.

"The first significant lake-effect snow event of the season will continue to bury parts of the northeastern United States into early Tuesday," said AccuWeather.com meteorologists in a Monday morning report. "The lake-effect snow will be set up by a blast of wintry air that arrived in the Northeast this past weekend," and snow will also continue to stream into western New England.

"A cold northwesterly flow across the still-warm Great Lakes will induce snow showers downwind of the lakes," AccuWeather.com meteorologist Elliot Abrams said. "The heaviest and most persistent snow will fall in parts of west-central and northern New York state. In these areas, an additional foot of snow can accumulate, with locally higher amounts."

More than 14 inches of snow had already fallen in Binghamton, NY, by early Monday morning.

"The setup into Monday night favors very narrow and intense lake-effect snow bands that can tap into moisture from the Great Lakes," said AccuWeather.com meteorologist Kristina Pydynowski. "The result will be a substantial amount of snow over a very localized area."

A distance of a few miles can mean the difference between a couple inches of snow and well over a foot.

Natgasweather.com said over the longer term, the focus will be whether "colder temperatures can persist over the northern and eastern U.S. after Dec. 5. If so, prices could remain supported. Although, if at any time there are signs of milder trends, which some of the data is starting to suggest, we might expect profit taking after a 40-cent spike."

Last Friday's gains had technical analysts leading to the bullish side. Natural gas may be on the cusp of still-higher prices.

For the "bearish case, a rising wedge up from the $2.546 low is about to come to an end. Bullish case, natgas is going to push higher into expiry," said United ICAP analyst Brian LaRose before the market opened on Monday.

"The upper limits of the rising wedge pattern cuts around $2.900 to start the week," which "would interpret a push through the $2.932-2.956 area as a sign the rally is going to continue near term." The technicals "support the bullish case."

Looking out further down the curve, traders might have to factor in increased liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports following another major earthquake in Japan.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, an earthquake measuring a magnitude of 6.9 hit northern Japan off the coast of Fukushima on Tuesday morning (3:59 p.m. Eastern on Monday). There were no immediate reports of damage or issues with the nuclear power plants located in the region, which have been shut in since the last earthquake and tsunami.

The price of LNG delivered to Japan soared after the last major earthquake and tsunami hit Japan, which occurred in March 2011. That earthquake forced the shutdown of Japan's nuclear power generators and sent LNG prices from roughly US$12/MMBtu into the US$15-$18/MMBtu range through late 2014.

"While it is still far too early to assess what impact the latest earthquake, which at a magnitude of 6.9 was well below the 9.0 quake that struck Japan in 2011, may have on potential LNG deliveries into the country, the worldwide LNG market is now better suited to furnish Japan with additional LNG supply," said Patrick Rau, NGI's director of strategy and research. "Australia has added several new LNG export facilities since 2014, and the U.S. now has two operational trains in the Gulf of Mexico, although there had yet to be any U.S. sourced LNG shipments to Japan through August, according to the Energy Information Administration."

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