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Broad Declines Offset Northeast Strength; December Expires Firm

Spot gas for Wednesday delivery on average fell a penny in Tuesday's trading. However, if one is willing to assume that market dynamics in the transportation-challenged Iroquois-Algonquin corridor distort the broader national market, removing those prices shows a 6-cent decline overall.

Prices at eastern locations hammered out some double-digit gains, but in the Great Lakes and Upper Midwest prices were off anywhere from a nickel to a dime or more. Gulf points were generally lower by a few pennies, but Rockies prices were off by double digits. At the close of futures trading, December expired 2.9 cents higher at $3.818 and January had risen 2.2 cents to $3.864. January crude oil fell 41 cents to $93.68/bbl.

Gas prices at Northeast locations posted dollar-plus gains in spite of forecasts calling for 60 degree readings. AccuWeather.com forecast that Tuesday's high in Boston of 43 would jump to 64 Wednesday but quickly subside to 35 on Thursday and Friday. The seasonal high in Boston is 48. New York City's 41 high Tuesday was expected to jump to 60 Wednesday and drop to 34 Thursday and 35 Friday. The normal late-November high in New York is 49.

The National Weather Service in New York City predicted an active weather pattern for the next several days. "[L]ow pressure over the Southeast states late this afternoon [Tuesday] will intensify and move up the coast tonight...passing over the area on Wednesday and then heading into eastern Canada Wednesday night. High pressure will then build in from Thursday through Saturday...and move off the New England coast on Sunday. A coastal front will develop on Sunday and remain into Monday. Low pressure will develop on the front and move along the coast on Tuesday."

In spite of warm temperatures, transportation in the area remains tight. According to Genscape, "AGT [Algonquin Gas Transmission] has restricted interruptible and 100% of secondary out-of-path nominations that exceed entitlements sourced upstream of its Stony Point Compressor Station for delivery downstream of Stony Point, [the] Cromwell Compressor Station for delivery to points east of Cromwell, and Southeast Compressor Station for delivery to points east of Southeast."

Deliveries to Algonquin Citygates soared $3.50 to $9.59, and at Iroquois Waddington next-day gas rose 44 cents to $4.65. Gas on Tennessee Zone 6 200 L vaulted $2.50 to $8.44.

On Dominion, gas for Wednesday fell 4 cents to $3.48, and deliveries to Transco Leidy added 7 cents to $3.38. On Tetco M-3 gas for Wednesday delivery jumped 24 cents to $4.12, and gas bound for New York City on Transco Zone 6 added 47 cents to $4.53.

Midwest marketers had to pay up to get clients' storage ready. "Looking forward, December is looking cold and we had to pay on Consumers what the daily index is coming in at, $3.95 and $3.96," said a Michigan buyer.

The buyer said his firm hadn't withdrawn any gas from storage for clients in November thinking "it could get worse."

Gas for Wednesday on Alliance fell 11 cents to $3.89, and at the Chicago Citygates gas was quoted at $3.95, down 12 cents. On Consumers, gas was seen at $3.92, down 6 cents, and on Michcon Wednesday packages came in at $3.90, down 3 cents. Gas at Dawn changed hands at $3.99, unchanged.

Estimates for Wednesday's noon EST release of storage data were coming in close to the five-year average of a 15 Bcf withdrawal. A year ago, 2 Bcf was withdrawn, and Reuters reported in its survey of 17 industry cognoscenti a range of minus 1 to minus 21 Bcf with an average of minus 10 Bcf. Ritterbusch and Associates is looking for a pull of 15 Bcf, and IAF Advisors calculates a decline of 9 Bcf.

Weather bulls can look forward to some frosty temperatures longer term. In its Tuesday morning 11- to 15-day forecast, WSI Corp. of Andover, MA, predicted a massive infusion of colder than normal temperatures extending from Oregon to South Texas to New York state. "Temperatures have trended colder over the interior Northwest and Plains, yet warmer over the East and Southwest when compared to the previous forecast," it said.

"Confidence is considered above average standards as models show excellent large-scale agreement through the end of the period. Risk is to the warmer side over the East and CAISO [California], whereas cold risks continue to be locked in over the Northwest, Rockies and Plains under a highly anomalous arctic air mass."

Analysts were looking for a firm expiration of the December contract. "This market remains well bid despite what appears to be some bearish adjustments to the temperature views that extend through next week," said Jim Ritterbusch of Ritterbusch and Associates. "Current cold trends across much of the Midcontinent pushed Henry Hub pricing to around $3.85 [Monday], and we feel that a strong tone within the physical trade will be facilitating a steady finish to the life of the December contract today. Although yesterday's one-month highs may not be violated today, technical trends and a continued excessively heavy presence of non-commercial accounts on the short side of this market could keep January futures advancing into the holiday period. We also feel that some month-end positioning could also tilt odds in favor of a continued well supported market into Friday."

Other estimates of Wednesday's storage report include UBS calculating a draw of from 0-10 Bcf, and Tim Evans of Citi Futures Perspective is looking for a reduction of 1 Bcf.

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