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Spot NatGas Tumbles Ahead Of Long Weekend, But Futures Post Six-Week High

In spite of the risks of lessened supply going into the long weekend, traders elected not to commit to four-day deals, and prices for the holiday weekend slumped. Weakness in Appalachia, the Northeast and California overwhelmed firmer markets in the Midwest, Midcontinent, the Southeast and Louisiana, and the NGI National Spot Gas Average fell 5 cents to $2.58.

Weather reports continue a pattern of a warm West and cooling East, and that was good enough for futures traders to lift the October contract 3.0 cents to $3.070 and the November contract 3.4 cents to $3.136. October crude oil rose 6 cents to $47.29/bbl.

Although CAISO forecast peak load Friday may set a record, Tuesday gas prices in southern California declined as Tuesday power slid at points serving the baking southern California market. Intercontinental Exchange reported Tuesday peak power at Palo Verde eased 67 cents to $102.66/MWh, but power delivered to SP-15 Tuesday tumbled $22.38 to $83.16/MWh.

Gas on PG&E Citygate rose a nickel to $3.40, but gas on El Paso S Mainline skidded 32 cents to $3.51. Deliveries to the SoCal Citygate were quoted 36 cents lower at $3.81, and gas priced at the SoCal Border Average dropped 35 cents to $3.18.

CAISO forecast peak load Friday at 50,749 MW, just above the previous record set in 2006 during a heat storm at 50,270 MW. At 2 p.m. PDT load was running 46,999 MW.

Eastern points fell. Gas at the Algonquin Citygate dropped 35 cents to $1.21 and deliveries to New York City via Transco Zone 6 shed 66 cents to $1.65. Gas on Tetco M-3 Delivery changed hands 33 cents lower at $1.05 and packages on Dominion South came in 38 cents lower at $1.05.

At the Chicago Citygate weekend packages rose a nickel to $2.84 and at the Henry Hub gas rose a penny to $2.90. Gas on El Paso Permian gave up a nickel to $2.75 and gas priced at Northern Natural Demarcation added a nickel to $2.79.

In Thursday’s storage report the Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported that the year-on-five-year surplus had now been whittled down to just 8 Bcf, and according to traders recent market strength represents a "wake-up call."

"Given the lack of major supply surplus that was available to the market last year, we feel that this market will need to establish some risk premium related to the possibility of supply disruptions related to weather or other issues," said Jim Ritterbusch of Ritterbusch and Associates in a morning report to clients.

"But, for now, upside is being restrained by an extension of cool temperature views into about the middle of this month. Although some warmer trends appear likely beyond next week, it doesn't appear to be enough deviation from normal to sustain yesterday's price advance.

"Regardless, the ability of nearby futures to push above the $3.03 resistance level is forcing some of the money managers to reduce short holdings following a recent incursion into the short side by a net margin of almost 44,000 contracts. Meanwhile, the physical trade is having some difficulty keeping pace with the futures rally, especially with industrial demand likely to be reduced via a three-day holiday at many plants."

Weather forecasters see a continuing pattern of a warm West and cooler East for the next two weeks. For the next five days meteorologist John Dee said, "Ridging will continue to occur across the western U.S., keeping temps above average there. A northwest flow aloft will provide for mostly below average temps across the eastern half to two-thirds of the U.S., keeping demands for cooling below average there.”

Tropics-wise, Hurricane Irma was front and center on traders' minds. "Ideas are for it to see further strengthening as it works through the central Atlantic," Dee said.

In its 5 p.m. EDT report the National Hurricane Center said Irma was located 1,495 miles east of the Leeward Islands and was moving west at 13 mph. A turn toward the west-southwest is expected on Saturday. Maximum sustained winds were near 120 mph with higher gusts. Fluctuations in strength, up or down, are possible during the next few days, but Irma is expected to remain a powerful hurricane through the weekend, NHC said.

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