Adding to the price erosion that began last Tuesday, natural gasfutures tumbled lower at the New York Mercantile Exchange Monday asunsupportive cash market values met with heavy local selling.However, when a second wave of selling failed to materialize,speculative traders were forced to cover shorts into the closeyesterday, sources said. The August contract finished at $2.144,down 1.9 cents on the day.

A Houston marketer insisted the most dominant sign of weaknesswas cash prices, which traded down from weekend levels. Gas fordelivery at the Henry Hub was among the biggest losers, slipping 4cents to $2.11. And the outlook doesn’t get much better. “Coolweather all up and down the East Coast this week is going to put acrimp in gas demand for electric generation. In fact, the onlypanic you will see is from utilities that will be struggling tomeet their minimum daily [gas] requirements,” he said.

Bulls, on the other hand, are not ready to throw in the towelquite yet and look for this week’s storage report to bail them outof a increasingly dismal price scenario. Early market banter iscentered on a net injection of 61-75 Bcf, which would turn theoft-quoted year-on-year surplus into a deficit. Last year themarket put 93 Bcf into the ground, making 76 the magic number thisyear’s refill will be measured against. Anything less will turn theyear-on-year surplus to a deficit for the first time since January1998.

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