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NatGas Cash Plunges Ahead Of Mild Weekend; Futures Traders Sidelined

Natural gas buyers Friday were in no mood to commit to three-day deals given a well supplied market and expected moderate weekend weather conditions.

Steady prices in Texas along with some modest strength in the Midcontinent and California were no match for the double-digit declines in New England, Appalachia and weak pricing in Louisiana. The NGI National Spot gas average fell 5 cents to $2.43.

Futures prices remained handcuffed in a near-term trading range between $2.75 and $3.10. At the close November had risen 4.2 cents to $2.915 and December had risen 2.7 cents to $3.113.

Eastern prices plunged as forecasts called for weekend temperatures in major markets 10 to 12 degrees above normal. AccuWeather.com forecast that New York City's Friday high of 73 would rise to 75 by Saturday and reach 74 by Monday, 12 degrees ahead of its seasonal norm. Philadelphia's Friday high of 73 was expected to give way to a Saturday high of 76 before easing slightly Monday to 75, 10 degrees above normal.

Gas priced at Tetco M-3 Delivery tumbled $1.16 to 85 cents and gas headed for New York City on Transco Zone 6 dropped 81 cents to $1.66. Gas on Algonquin Citygate was quoted at $2.50, down 22 cents and gas on Dominion South plunged to 41 cents, down 24 cents.

Whether mild, ten-degree temperature variations repeat themselves throughout the upcoming winter remains to be seen, but longer term weather patterns are definitely on the minds of traders.

Right now, the market is focused on where storage will end up heading into the heating season, Tom Saal, broker with FCStone Latin America, told NGI.

"That story is pretty much told and already over. We're going to be close to the five-year average, but that's lower than last year. That's a little on the friendly side." But the CPC's Winter Outlook came in on the bearish side and likely sent futures "searching for the bottom of the range" Thursday, Saal said.

"Natural gas this time of year, with anticipation of winter, you've got a forecast that says we're not going to have one, that's bearish. There's going to be a market reaction to that," Saal said, adding, "The speculators might have traded a little bit on the forecast, but it's still a forecast. We've got a lot of winter left."

Elsewhere prices were mixed. Gas at the Chicago Citygate fell 8 cents to $2.64 and the Henry Hub came in at $2.77, down 4 cents. Deliveries to El Paso Permian were seen a penny lower at $2.41 and packages priced at NGPL Midcontinent added 2 cents to $2.55.

At Opal weekend and Monday deliveries shed 2 cents to $2.55 and gas on El Paso S Mainline added 3 cents to $2.70. Gas at the SoCal Citygate was quoted at $3.57, down 10 cents and gas priced at the SoCal Border Average rose 2 cents to $2.69.

Recent market swings have traders licking their wounds.

"While yesterday's fresh price lows followed by a higher close and this morning's upside follow through might be viewed as a bullish technical consideration, we feel that the money managers are simply accepting profits as the market fell in the face of a seemingly bullish storage figure that could reemerge as a bullish factor once temperature forecasts begin to shift to the cold side," said Jim Ritterbusch of Ritterbusch and Associates Friday.

"The EIA's reported 51 Bcf injection was about 4 Bcf smaller than the average street idea and roughly 12 Bcf less than our forecast. But the fact that the supply deficit stretched more than expected to about 35 Bcf didn't appear to be a significant concern in [Thursday's] trade. Daily updates to the short term temperature views are still driving pricing and the outlooks continue to favor unusually mild trends that are now extending into early November.

"With the market apparently pricing in a disappearance of the small supply shortfall within the next few weeks, lifting back up could prove arduous. While we believe that nearby futures will be returning north of the $3 mark, we also feel that lack of significant chart support until the $2.75 level favors one more round of fresh lows. We are sidelined for now after accepting a small loss on a long position. We will caution against following this market lower given a developing oversold technical condition. But at the same time, the exceptionally wide carrying charges into about next spring are suggesting caution against entry into the long side.”

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