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Natgas Cash, Futures Bounce Higher; March Adds 8 Cents

Physical natural gas for Wednesday delivery recovered a portion of the 30 cents-plus drubbing it endured in the previous three trading sessions and ended Tuesday with double-digit gains.

Temperature declines by as much as 20 degrees were expected Wednesday in Chicago and Thursday in New York City, as the NGI National Spot Gas Average rose 14 cents to $2.93. Two points followed by NGI were unchanged, but all others were solidly in the black, some by 15 cents or more.

Futures managed a healthy gain as well, with the March contract gaining 8 cents to $3.130, and April rising 7.5 cents to $3.192. March crude oil fell 84 cents to $52.17/bbl.

Look for West Coast prices to remain firm as problems on the TransCanada Corp. Nova (TC Albert/NGTL) system are expected to impact flows as far south as California.

"Monday afternoon, TransCanada Nova posted notice of the need to reduce export capacity out of Alberta to British Columbia (BC)," industry consultant Genscape Inc. said Tuesday morning. "Nova experienced an unplanned outage on its Winchell Lake compressor station. As a result, capacity at the Alberta/BC Border (AB/BC) will be reduced to 1,766 MMcf/d, roughly 700 MMcf/d below normal. This will cut flows by about 500 MMcf/d relative to the past 14-day average."

Next-day gas at Kingsgate rose 15 cents to $2.79, and deliveries to Stanfield added 10 cents to $2.86. Gas at Malin changed hands 15 cents higher at $2.91, and deliveries to the PG&E Citygate came in 13 cents higher $3.45.

"This will affect flows down to California,” Genscape said. “The AB/BC line (Foothills) only serves a small amount of BC demand. The bulk of the gas is exported to the U.S. onto the GTN system at Kingsgate.” Tuesday’s “GTN receipts from Foothills are down to 1,616 MMcf/d, a 454 MMcf/d day/day drop and about 500 MMcf/d below the prior 14-day average.”

Other market centers also posted gains. Gas at the Chicago Citygate rose 14 cents to $3.02, and deliveries to the Henry Hub gained 12 cents to $3.04. Packages priced at the NGPL Midcontinent jumped 18 cents to $2.84, and gas at Opal added 17 cents as well to $2.86.

Deliveries to the Algonquin Citygate added 31 cents to $3.37, and gas on Iroquois, Waddington was up 19 cents to $3.23. Gas priced on Tenn Zone 6 200L was quoted 30 cents higher at $3.43.

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Traders noted only modest tweaks in the weather outlook, but technical support for the moment held.

Forecasters noted little change to the ongoing pattern of mild temperatures.

"Forecast changes were generally small and mixed in this period, trending marginally colder in the Northeast and Southwest and warmer in the Southeast,” MDA Weather Services said in its Tuesday morning six- to 10-day outlook. “Otherwise, this period remains one of warmer than normal themes nationally as Pacific flow is enhanced by steady troughing over Alaska and a deepening low into the Gulf of Alaska.

"This results in a coverage of much aboves in the North-Central and aboves, which span the Eastern two-thirds. In the wake of coastal disturbances, temperatures are expected to turn seasonal in the East in the second half, following a warmer start to the period there."

Analysts suggested the lack of seasonal weather and a likely switch back to storage surpluses are tempting targets for speculative short selling.

The “clarity regarding the magnitude or sustainability of any cold patterns has yet to be evidenced and until more definition is seen, this advance could prove similar to the brief price spikes seen on several occasions this year," said Jim Ritterbusch of Ritterbusch and Associates in a Tuesday morning report to clients.

“As the heating season has moved into an advanced stage, the dynamic of a renewed and sustainable storage surplus has attracted the focus of the trading community.”

The surplus “will likely contract appreciably” with the Energy Information Administration (EIA) report Thursday, but “renewed expansion would appear likely beyond this week's release in containing upside price possibilities.

“While we can easily provide an argument for an additional price rally toward the $3.20 mark given an oversold technical condition, advances to beyond this level will require indication of one more severe cold spell that could force some renewed surplus contraction."

The Desk' Early View survey of 11 traders and analysts following EIA storage figures showed an average 153 Bcf withdrawal for the week ended Feb. 3. That compares to last year's 93 Bcf pull and a five-year average of 138 Bcf.

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