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Surging Northeast Natgas Quotes Surrounded By Weakness; Futures Swan Dive

Next-day gas prices were mostly lower in Monday's trading as stout double- and even triple-digit gains at some points in the East compared to drops nearly everywhere else. New England, the Mid-Atlantic, Marcellus points and Appalachia were all higher as pipeline curtailments remained in place, and forecast power loads increased. Next-day power prices were also firm. Producing region pricing came in mixed to lower.

The overall national average dropped by 9 cents to average $3.44. Futures fell hard as longer term weather forecasts backed off earlier forecasts of cool temperatures across the northern tier of states. At the close, November was down 14.1 cents to $3.898, and December had fallen 13.0 cents to $3.987. November crude oil gained 60 cents to $90.34/bbl.

In the Northeast, next-day gas jumped as pipeline restrictions on Algonquin (AGT) were tightened even further. Ongoing maintenance issues forced Algonquin to restrict "interruptible and 100% of secondary out of path nominations that exceed entitlement sourced from points west of its Cromwell Compressor Station for delivery to points east of Cromwell. No increases in nominations sourced from points west of Cromwell for delivery to points east of Cromwell, except for Primary Firm No-Notice nominations, will be accepted," the company reported.

Power loads and pricing remained on a solid footing at eastern and Mid-Atlantic locations. ISO New England forecast that peak power Monday of 15,790 MW would rise to 16,300 MW Tuesday and ease slightly to 16,000 MW Wednesday. The PJM Interconnection forecast that Monday's peak load of 31,273 MW would reach 32,538 MW Tuesday before inching lower to 32,208 MW Wednesday.

IntercontinenalExchange said next-day peak power at the ISO New England's Massachusetts Hub rose $2.95 to $35.95/MWh, and at the PJM West terminal, Tuesday peak power rose 64 cents to $42.02/MWh.

In the Mid-Atlantic, AccuWeather.com meteorologists forecast little more than average temperatures with some rainfall.

"No big temperature extremes are in the offing for this week around New York City, but there will be some rain to contend with on occasion,” said meteorologist Dave Dombeck. "Temperatures will generally be within a few degrees of average this week, which happen to range from a low in the lower 50s F to a high in the upper 60s. A couple of episodes of showers are in the offing into early Wednesday. Some areas may get a thunderstorm as well. The period from Wednesday midday through Thursday afternoon will be free of rain."

AccuWeather.com predicted Monday's high in Boston of 66 would increase to 72 by Tuesday and ease to 71 Wednesday. The normal high in Boston this time of year is 65. New York City's high Monday of 69 was expected to reach 72 Tuesday and Wednesday. The seasonal high in New York City is 67. Philadelphia's forecast high of 74 was seen easing to 70 Tuesday before climbing back to 72 Wednesday.

At the Algonquin Citygates, Tuesday deliveries jumped 81 cents to $2.76, and on Iroquois Waddington, gas changed hands $1.30 higher at $3.62. Deliveries on Tennessee Zone 6 200 L vaulted 97 cents to $3.12.

Gas bound for New York City on Transco Zone 6 rose 35 cents to $1.86, and packages on Tetco M-3 were seen higher by 32 cents to $1.84.

In Appalachia and the Marcellus region, next-day gas marched higher as well. Gas on Millennium gained 25 cents to $1.80, and deliveries to Dominion South added 26 cents to $1.78. Parcels on Tennessee Zone 4 Marcellus gained 25 cents to $1.68, and next-day gas on Transco Leidy was seen 23 cents higher at $1.77.

Producing regions saw mixed to lower pricing. At Carthage, parcels for next-day delivery changed hands 5 cents lower at $3.78, and at Katy gas came in at $3.89, up 4 cents. Houston Ship Channel deliveries were quoted 6 cents higher at $3.91, and on NGPL S TX gas was seen at $3.80, down 4 cents.

Transco Zone 1 gas fell by a penny to $3.81, and Tennessee Zone 0 South packages shed 2 cents to $3.79.

Futures traders see natural gas bound by the same trading range it has been mired in since late July.

"I think natural gas needs some weather just to get out of its own way," said a New York floor trader. “We are starting to see cold weather, and when I walked the dog [Monday] morning it was 36, but we'll need to see a pretty extended cold snap."

Cold perhaps, but extended might have to wait. MDA Weather Services moderated its six- to 10-day outlook. In a Monday morning report MDA forecasters said, "A much less cool outlook is shown...as cold air support weakens and a more variable pattern emerges. Though lingering high-latitude ridging remains in place from the Canadian Arctic toward Greenland (-NAO) [North Atlantic Oscillation], supporting a cooler outlook than what the models show, the Pacific pattern is set to be much less supportive of cool air while also supporting a more variable pattern.

"One cool shot early in the period comes with cooler concerns from the Midwest into the Great Lakes as an upper-level trough digs in over the Midcontinent, though sustainability of the cool air remains a question."

Risk managers favor the upside. "Funds continue to carry a fairly large short position in natural gas, which could set the natural gas market up or a short-covering rally, similar to the one we saw last winter," said DEVO Capital President Mike DeVooght. "As we approach the heating season, there will be a reluctance to pressure the market on the short side.

“We will be monitoring the winter contracts for an opportunity to initiate hedges for the winter months. We will be looking for a rally to the $4.50-5.00 level to do so. For speculators and long hedgers we would purchase the winter $4.20 calls and sell the $3.80-3.90 puts."

Gas for power generation over the broad Midwest Independent System Operator (MISO) footprint may not be quite so much in demand as forecasters call for favorable wind generation prospects.

"The mean location of a strong, cutoff low-pressure system over southern Canada will keep conditions generally dry and cool, yet windy over much the region through mid-week,” said WSI Corp. in its Monday morning outlook. “Conditions look generally dry through much of the period, with some increased risk for scattered showers on Thursday as a weak short-wave swiftly sweeps across the region.

"Northwesterly flow will likely increase in speed later [Monday], providing a favorable window for wind generation. Wind generation is anticipated to remain favorable over the next few days as northwesterly flow dominates. High pressure is anticipated to build back in later in the week, reducing wind prospects."

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