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Physical NatGas, Futures Ratchet Higher; July Adds 6 Cents

The exuberance in the physical natural gas market Monday continued Tuesday but at a more subdued pace.

Gas for delivery Tuesday was strongest in the Rockies, West Texas and the Midcontinent, easily offsetting a few weak points in Northeast, Appalachia and East Texas. The NGI National Spot Gas Average rose 3 cents to $2.72.

Futures traders lifted contracts off support levels to a solid gain back over $3. At the close, July had added 6.0 cents to $3.042 and August was up 5.2 cents to $3.076. July crude oil gained 79 cents to $48.19/bbl.

Futures traders see the market close to a near-term bottom. "I think we have hit the low or have a low of $2.85," said Alan Harry, a trader and principal with Harry's RE Trust in New York.

"I think that scale-in buying is the best way to approach this market right now. It's technically oversold, and I think with the issues with Qatar, it might give a real boost to any exports of natural gas. It would take some time to affect the marketplace, and any long-term issue with them would definitely impact the market here.

"Right now, we are growing and that would put a big demand in the market. People would be searching us out for our natural gas. Most of the contracts that are out there are long term contracts, and short term there wouldn't be much impact, but it is something close to watch," Harry said.

"Now there is reason to scale-in buy for both technical and fundamental reasons."

July opened 6 cents higher Tuesday morning at $3.04 as traders factored in a modest warming trend over key energy markets.

"[Tuesday's] six-10 day period forecast is a little warmer than yesterday's forecast over portions of the central and eastern U.S.," said WSI Corp. in its morning report to clients. "CONUS PWCDDs are up 2.4 to 53.1 for the period, which are 16.2 above average. Forecast confidence is a little better than average as medium-range models are in good agreement and have been consistent with the pattern flip that will drive summer-like warmth and humidity across the eastern two-thirds.

"There is localized uncertainty across the Midcontinent and South due to potential shower/thunderstorm activity, [and] even with the warmer changes to the forecast there are minor warmer risks over the Northeast."

Top traders are keeping their powder dry for the moment. "We are still sidelined in this market on an outright basis as the recent price decline has exceeded our downside expectations," said Jim Ritterbusch of Ritterbusch and Associates in a morning note to clients. "It appears that this market will likely be able to place a price bottom once some significantly above-normal temperature trends begin to show up within the short-term views, a development not currently on the radar.

"As a result, our technical tools leave open the possibility of some additional price decline to around the $2.90 area where we would expect solid support regardless of the temperature views. So while we are looking for a place to establish a long position pending evidence of chart support, we have begun to advise longer-dated bull spreads such as long September '17-short February '18 positions. And given the oversold nature of this market, Thursday's EIA storage report is more apt to prompt a bullish rather than a bearish reaction on an equivalent-sized miss."

In the physical market mild temperature forecasts gave little incentive to buyers. AccuWeather.com forecast that Boston's Tuesday high of 52 degrees would climb to 60 Wednesday and reach a pleasant 65 on Thursday, 8 degrees below normal. Chicago's Tuesday max of 71 was expected to ease to 70 Wednesday but reach 76 on Thursday, a degree below normal.

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Gas at the Algonquin Citygate plunged 23 cents to $2.30, and deliveries to Iroquois Waddington tumbled 49 cents to $2.17. Gas on Tennessee Zone 6 200L fell 15 cents to $2.30.

Other market points were nominally stronger. Gas on Dominion South rose 2 cents to $2.00 and deliveries to the Chicago Citygate added a penny to $2.85. Gas at the Henry Hub was quoted a nickel higher at $2.96.

Northern Natural Demarcation came in 5 cents higher at $2.76 and gas on El Paso Permian added 8 cents to $2.68. Kern River changed hands 8 cents higher at $2.69 and gas priced at the SoCal Border Average rose 7 cents to $2.80.

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