Physical gas prices for Wednesday delivery fell across the country in Tuesday's trading as many regions were seeing the mercury creep higher. The stoutest declines were seen in the Northeast.
Across the nation's mid-section declines averaged close to a dime, but Gulf Coast points were only off by a few pennies. Losses were widespread, and only a few points made it into the plus column.
Over in the futures arena, the January natural gas contract rose 0.8 cent to $4.287 and February was higher by 1.8 cents to $4.304. January crude oil fell 26 cents to $97.22/bbl.
From the Rockies to the Great Lakes a short-term warming trend was enough to soften prices. Forecaster Wunderground.com predicted that Denver's high of 60 on Tuesday would reach 63 on Wednesday before dropping to 47 on Thursday. The seasonal high for the Queen City of the Plains is 42. Omaha's 42 high on Tuesday was anticipated to rise to 49 Wednesday before slumping to 30 on Thursday. The normal high in Omaha is 34. Chicago's expected Tuesday high of 36 was seen slipping to 33 Wednesday but rising to 38 on Thursday. The typical mid-December high in Chicago is 35.
The National Weather Service in Omaha reported that "Tonight [Tuesday] a fairly strong warm front moves from western Nebraska east through the region...bringing temperatures of positive double digits, which is quite warm for this time of year. Models show good agreement with this...as well as good mixing with 40-plus knot winds. Resulting highs Wednesday should be quite mild with far southwest corner of forecast area approaching 60."
Quotes for Wednesday packages on Alliance fell 7 cents to $4.41, and at the Chicago citygates gas was quoted at $4.40, down 9 cents. At Northern Natural Ventura, next-day gas was seen at $4.35, down 7 cents, and at Demarcation parcels for Wednesday came in at $4.31, down 8 cents. Gas on ANR SW fell 21 cents to $4.09.
Northeast prices fell and the Mid-Atlantic was mixed as traders braced for a round of warming expected by the weekend. "A brief but major shift in the weather pattern will send warm air northward and will produce a zone of heavy rain in a large part of the eastern half of the nation this weekend," said Alex Sosnowski, meteorologist at AccuWeather.com.
"Temperatures will trend upward Thursday and Friday from the South to New England, [and] by the weekend, temperatures may challenge record highs from the Gulf Coast to the Ohio Valley and the mid-Atlantic. Highs will be in the 70s over much of the South with a few spots flirting with 80 degrees Saturday and Sunday. Temperatures will reach near 60 degrees along the Ohio River and the Mason-Dixon Line bordering Pennsylvania and Maryland." He cautioned that the warmth moving into much of the Midwest and Northeast will lead to snow melt and considerable runoff.
High temperatures in New York Sunday were expected to reach 59, and Philadelphia was forecast to enjoy 65. Washington, DC, was predicted to see a balmy 68.
Quotes for Wednesday delivery at the Algonquin Citygates fell $1.82 to average $21.23, and gas upstream at Iroquois Waddington tumbled $7.26 to $6.81. On Tennessee Zone 6 200 L packages changed hands at $21.15, down $1.76.
Deliveries on Transco-Leidy came in 1 cent higher at $3.29, and gas on Dominion rose 10 cents to $3.60. However, on Tetco M-3 Delivery next-day gas was quoted at $4.62, down 56 cents, and gas bound for New York City on Transco Zone 6 plunged $1.90 to $5.01.
Weather forecasts Monday overnight on balance had changed little. WSI Corp. in its Tuesday morning six- to 10-day outlook showed below-normal temperatures under a broad ridge centered over Lake Superior and extending as far south as Missouri, east to northern New York and west to North Dakota. Above-normal temperatures are seen in the Southeast. "[Tuesday's] forecast is cooler in the central U.S. early in the period but a bit warmer late. Forecast confidence has improved a notch today as relative stability has developed in the models.
"The trickiest part of the forecast is early in the period over the lower Midwest and Northeast. Expect a tight temperature gradient along a quasi-stationary front; temps may flip dramatically in either direction depending on where the front ultimately stalls out."
Market technicians are burning the midnight oil trying to figure out if the market has made a top. "In Monday's daily report, we cited the numerous reasons for the bulls to be concerned," said Brian LaRose, an analyst with United-ICAP. "We can now add a gap lower on the daily chart and a sell signal on the short-term technicals to the list. However, we are still missing the most important ingredient in the recipe for peaking action, a break below key support. To indicate $4.443 marked a top, $4.133-4.094-4.037 must be broken," he said in closing comments to clients.
Jim Ritterbusch of Ritterbusch and Associates saw the day's futures trading in which January rebounded off recent lows as "prompted by mid-morning temperature updates suggestive of some colder 1-2 week views than indicated late yesterday. We also continue to feel that non-commercial shorts will remain highly sensitized to even the slightest shift toward colder temps as their net bearish holdings still remain disconnected from increasingly bullish fundamental balances."
In closing comments he said, "Our pricing stance remains neutral for now as we anticipate wide swings between about $4.10 on the downside and roughly 4.45 on the upside between now and the end of next week when the January contract goes off the board. Besides attempting to trade the market off of these parameters, we will also be looking to establish bear spreads such as long December 2014-short April 2014 should nearby futures rebound back toward last week's highs.