Spot natural gas for weekend and Monday delivery jumped on average 53 cents in Friday's trading, thanks to multi-dollar surges at points in the Northeast ahead of the region’s first real freeze.
Gains were widespread and deep, and fewer than a handful of locations showed red ink. At eastern market points gains were in the double- and triple-digit range, led by deliveries to the Algonquin Citygates, where weekend and Monday gas jumped $9.51 to average $14.01.
Temperatures by Monday for much of the Northeast were expected to be nearly 15 degrees below normal. AccuWeather.com predicted that Boston's high Friday of 48 degrees would slide to 45 on Saturday before dropping further to 35 on Monday. The normal high in Boston is 49. New York City's 57 Friday high was forecast to fall to 49 Saturday and also reach a bone-chilling 35 on Monday. The normal high this time of year in the Big Apple is 52.
Power prices at eastern locations surged and made the economics of gas purchases for power generation attractive. IntercontinentalExchange reported that Monday peak power at the New England ISO's Massachusetts Hub jumped $66.20 to $109.03/MWh, and peak power deliveries at the PJM West delivery point rose $17.65 to $53.01/MWh. At the New York Independent System Operator's Zone G market point (eastern New York), Monday peak power surged $53.50 to $93.50/MWh.
Algonquin wasn’t the only big gainer in the Northeast. On Tennessee Zone 6 200 L, gas changed hands at $12.25, up $7.81, and gas upstream at Iroquois Waddington added $2.09 to $6.14. Dominion saw weekend and Monday packages rise 16 cents to $3.44, and on Transco Leidy gas came in 5 cents lower at $3.16. Deliveries to Tetco M-3 jumped 46 cents to $4.00, and gas bound for New York City on Transco Zone 6 vaulted $1.86 to $5.51.
At the close of futures trading, the December contract had added 6.6 cents to $3.768 and January had risen 7.1 cents to $3.811. January crude oil fell 60 cents to $94.84/bbl.
Rocky Mountain cash points posted solid gains for weekend and Monday packages as major markets in the Midwest were forecast to experience temperatures as much as 15 to 20 degrees below normal. "January-like cold is on the way for areas of the Midwest that were ravaged by tornadoes on Sunday, bringing dangerous and life-threatening low temperatures to those still without power," said AccuWeather.com.
"[H]undreds are still without power in Washington and Peoria, IL, making the overnight lows Saturday and Sunday extremely dangerous. The highs during the day this weekend can easily feel like the dead of winter cold," said AccuWeather.com meteorologist Bernie Rayno. "Temperatures are forecast to drop 15 to 20 degrees below normal this weekend. Saturday will usher in temperatures in the 20s with biting wind from the north. The wind will drop [wind chill] temperatures into the single digits and below zero at times. In the early hours of Sunday morning, the mercury could fall into the teens."
Temperatures throughout the region were expected to be below normal. AccuWeather.com predicted the high in Chicago Friday of 38 would drop to 26 Saturday but rebound to 41 Monday, still 5 degrees below normal. Omaha was anticipated to see Friday's high of 30 drop to 22 Saturday before making it up to 40 on Monday. The normal high in Omaha is 44. St. Louis' Friday high of 42 was seen dropping to 36 Saturday but then rising to 45 on Monday. The seasonal high in St. Louis is 52.
A Rocky Mountain producer saw the cold perhaps impacting production. "We could get freeze-offs. Temperatures are supposed to go down to 20 degrees in Amarillo, and this is November. If we are going to have a run in the gas market, it is going to be between now and the end of February since we had record cold last March and April. The best chance is in December."
Gas for weekend and Monday delivery at the Cheyenne Hub rose 7 cents to $3.68, and gas on CIG Mainline added 9 cents to $3.65. Deliveries on Northwest Pipeline Wyoming also rose 9 cents to $3.67, and at Opal weekend and Monday gas came in at $3.69, a 9-cent increase. El Paso non-Bondad was seen at $3.68, up 7 cents.
Other major market hubs also gained. At the Chicago Citygates parcels were seen at $3.89, up 13 cents, and at the Henry Hub gas changed hands at $3.77, up 9 cents. At the SoCal Citygates gas rose 4 cents to $3.97, and on Panhandle weekend and Monday gas rose 7 cents to $3.53.
Top traders see market momentum clearly driven by weather forecasts and a speculative community nursing losing positions on the short side of the market. "This market saw a small recovery overnight that would appear to set the stage for a strong finish to this week's trade," said Jim Ritterbusch of Ritterbusch and Associates. "Although some moderation is being seen in the extended eight-14 day temperature forecasts, below-normal patterns, especially within the eastern one-third of the country, appear capable of maintaining upward price momentum into the Thanksgiving holiday period. Of course, as seen on numerous occasions, temperature views can shift considerably during a weekend and as a result, buyers will likely be reticent in approaching the long side [Friday]."
Ritterbusch was looking for another 13 cents to the upside. "With expected chart resistance at the $3.70 level now cleared, we feel that a further advance to about $3.83 is likely within the next couple of trading sessions. While the market has likely discounted some unusually strong storage withdrawals that will be issued out to about Dec. 12th, we feel that surprises are apt to skew bullish amidst international trade that could see some slippage in imports amidst some possible export gains into Mexico."
MDA Weather Services in its morning one- to five-day outlook shows the epicenter of forecast cold in West Texas at 15 or more degrees below normal but extending in a broad ridge to the southern tip of Lake Michigan. Further out in its 11-15 day outlook, below-normal temperatures are expected north of a sinuous arc from Washington to northeast Colorado as far south as South Carolina. Confidence in the forecast was rated low.
Since the Northeast expansion of pipeline capacity at the beginning of the month on Tennessee, Transco and Texas Eastern, Genscape reports that "Appalachia production has maintained at a steady level of 13.2 Bcf/d for the past two weeks." November production last year was 8.7 Bcf/d, putting the year-on-year increase for November at a stout 4.5 Bcf/d.
Tom Saal, vice president at INTL FC Stone in Miami, looked for the market to test Thursday's value area at $3.724 to $3.690 before moving on and testing $3.651 to $3.627 and $3.792 to $3.772. Saal is not specific in his timing, but typically the most proximate value area is tested the next day.