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NatGas Cash, Futures Slide Lower; November Loses A Nickel

Natural gas for delivery Thursday continued on Wednesday's downward trek as gains in Appalachia along with steady pricing in the Rocky Mountains were not able to offset steep declines in California as pricing at the SoCal Citygate was reined in to more normal levels.

The Northeast was weak, and soft pricing prevailed in the Midwest and Midcontinent. The NGI National Spot Gas Average fell 2 cents to $2.72.

Futures also took the path of least resistance, lower, as traders had to digest weather models at odds with each other. At the close November had fallen 5.5 cents to $2.919 and December was down by 5.3 cents to $3.082. December crude oil shed 29 cents to $52.18/bbl.

Next-day gas prices subsided in the Rockies and California but most noticeably at the SoCal Citygate as temperatures were forecast to moderate and power loads and prices eased as well. AccuWeather.com forecast that Los Angeles' Wednesday high of 101 would slide to 89 by Thursday and 87 Friday, 10 degrees above the seasonal norm. San Bernardino, CA was predicted to see its Wednesday peak of 100 drop to 93 Thursday and 91 Friday, also 10 degrees greater than average.

Gas at the SoCal Citygate plunged $3.47 to $4.17 and gas at the PG&E Citygate fell a penny to $3.19. Deliveries to Opal came in a penny lower at $2.72 and gas priced at the El Paso S Mainline dropped a dime to $3.36.

CAISO forecast that peak load Thursday would reach 34,484 MW, down from Wednesday's peak of 37,090 MW.

Intercontinental Exchange reported that on-peak power Thursday at the SP-15 delivery point tumbled $44.13 to $58.19/MWh.

Deliveries to the Algonquin Citygate rose 15 cents to $3.23 and gas on Dominion South was 15 cents higher at $1.23. Packages priced at Tetco M-3 Delivery added 15 cents to $1.28 and gas on its way to New York City on Transco Zone 6 added a penny to $2.93.

Gas at the Chicago Citygate fell a penny to $3.01 and gas at the Henry Hub was quoted a penny higher at $2.93. Gas on El Paso Permian changed hands 3 cents lower at $2.55 and deliveries to Northern Natural Demarcation fell 2 cents to $2.85.

According to the NGI’s Rex Zone 3 Tracker east to west flows Wednesday were reduced from capacity of 3 Bcf/d to 1.7 Bcf/d, but downstream delivery points remained unaffected by the shortfall. The drop in flows coincided with a smart pig run on REX’s Segment 390 scheduled for Wednesday, according to information posted on Tallgrass Energy Partners’ pipeline bulletin.

Futures traders see a market totally driven by short term weather.

"Earlier in the week traders got a little excited when they saw a little blue on the six-to-10 day forecast map," said Steve Blair, vice president at Rafferty Technical Research in New York.

"That was very short-lived and a lot of people are expressing a lot of trepidation about whether that will last into November. This market is completely weather driven, and even storage looks better than last year. We are below a year ago and below the five-year average, but until such time comes that this market is convinced there is actual heating demand coming into the market consistently, the market is going to continue to flounder.

"The bulls should be good down to about $2.70 to $2.77, but much warmer and we are talking a different picture," he said.

Traders will get an idea Thursday if a different picture is about to emerge when the Energy Information Administration releases weekly inventory data. Last year 74 Bcf were injected and the five-year pace stands at 75 Bcf. This time around the estimates are coming in lower, despite moderate temperatures.

ION Energy calculates at 63 Bcf build and Gelber and Associates is looking for a 68 Bcf injection. A Reuters survey of 24 traders and analysts revealed an average 65 Bcf with a range of +60 Bcf to +70 Bcf.

Weather forecasters had difficulty reconciling the different models. "Cold air now peaks in the one-to-five day period with the six-to-10 day being a period of transition as cold looks to gradually become more confined to the far northern tier," said MDA Weather Services in its morning report to clients. "However, cold air does linger early with belows/much belows in the Midwest and South at the onset.

"Significant model disagreement limits confidence as the GFS comes in at +18” gas-weighted heating degree days “colder than the Euro. The GFS seems overaggressive with the cold; however, the forecast is not as warm as the Euro in the eastern half in the latter part of the period. Aboves are noted in California and the Southwest while the Northwest cools late."

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