The start of the November aftermarket saw a decidedly mixed bag of price movement Thursday. Compared with last-of-October numbers, Nov. 1 pricing ranged from about half a dollar lower (San Juan Basin) to a little more than a dime higher (SoCal border), with many gradations between those extremes. Overall, the negative changes outweighed the positive ones.
After watching December futures drop nearly a quarter in their second day as prompt-month contract, most sources anticipated softer cash prices Friday, noting that besides the screen weakness, the typical dropoff in weekend industrial demand would be a factor. However, a Northeast utility buyer, conceding that the screen helped lead cash lower Thursday, thought it would be getting cold enough over the weekend to expect a mild rebound Friday, at least in his market area. He pointed to forecasts of lake-effect snow streaming into the Northeast from the eastern Great Lakes and of the potential for the season’s first freezes in parts of the South.
But a Midwest marketer saw little chance of anything but softness in his region. Temperatures are due to get a little milder, he said, and Thursday’s futures plunge should be a big depressant for the cash market. He reported that after an early Chicago citygate purchase at $4.40, a later one had slipped into the high $4.20s. A producer tended to concur with the marketer, saying he was not finding nearly as much Midwest demand near the end of the week as he had earlier.
Another marketer had this rationale for falling prices in the early part of the month: “It seems like everyone has set themselves up long heading into the November aftermarket, and with moderating temperatures expected [Friday], gas prices could only come off.”
A slightly depressed western trader droned, “There is snow on the ground, driving is tough, it’s cold, it’s miserable, and I haven’t seen the sun in four days. It has been a hard week.” Despite Thursday’s declines at Rockies points, he considers area prices as still relatively strong. “It is early in the withdrawal season, so it’s not a supply issue. There must be a whole lot of demand going on out there.”
The Energy Information Administration reported a total storage injection of 11 Bcf for last week, which fit within the range of prior expectations but was near their lower end. A marketer commented, “The EIA number was right in the range, so I’m not sure why there was such a bearish reaction” at Nymex. But he went on to observe that the Midwest was warming up a bit, saying, “You could practically go out golfing right now. The sustained coldness the weatherman told us about is no longer there. There will be more of a [price] dropoff tomorrow [Friday].”
Another source offered this take: “As long as the EIA doesn’t issue another correction, then I will be happy. I think EIA is getting more and more confident in their reporting and the way their data is gathered. I hope the bugs are all worked out before the winter season.”
Lehman Brothers analyst Thomas Driscoll said he expects the year-over-year storage surplus of 40 Bcf as of Oct. 25 to change to a deficit of 15 Bcf after next week. He is estimating EIA’s report will show a withdrawal of 35 Bcf for this week versus an injection of 20 Bcf a year ago. Driscoll expects the industry to end the refill season with about 3,140 Bcf of working gas in storage, short of many sources’ earlier projections of 3,200 Bcf.
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