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New England Strength, Forecast Storms Lift Market; Futures Struggle Higher

Physical gas for Wednesday delivery staged a modest but broad advance in Tuesday's trading. The gains were led by multi-dollar advances in New England points, but the Mid-Atlantic, Rockies and California were firm as well.

Only a handful of scattered locations fell into the loss column. A combination of rain turning to snow was forecast for the Northeast, although temperatures were not expected to deviate much from seasonal norms. Strong next-day power pricing also led to the appeal of incremental gas purchases at eastern points. At the close of futures trading, January had risen 5.7 cents to $3.652 and February was higher by 5.8 cents to $3.681. January crude oil gained 77 cents to $63.82/bbl.

New England saw the day's biggest moves as a cold, wet forecast combined with strong power prices to keep the market well bid.

IntercontinentalExchange reported that peak power Wednesday at ISO New England's Massachusetts Hub rose $8.07 to $58.63/MWh and next-day peak power at the New York ISO's Zone G (eastern New York) delivery point added $4.00 to $47.00. Across the broad PJM footprint, next-day peak power settled at $44.05, up 80 cents.

Parcels at the Algonquin Citygates jumped $1.85 to $6.91, and deliveries to Iroquois Waddington added 18 cents to $4.22. On Tennessee Zone 6 200 L, next-day packages changed hands at $6.89, up $2.16.

Gas headed for New York City on Transco Zone 6 rose 35 cents to $4.07, but parcels on Tetco M-3 were up 2 cents at $3.47.

Gas deliveries across Appalachia and the Marcellus came in mixed. Wednesday gas on Millennium added 3 cents to $2.77, but gas on Transco Leidy retreated 12 cents to $2.17. On Tennessee Zone 4 Marcellus next-day parcels were seen at $2.13, up 2 cents, and on Dominion South next-day deliveries slipped 4 cents to $2.99.

Temperatures across the areas expected to be hit by the storms held pretty close to normal. AccuWeather.com predicted Boston's Tuesday high of 47 would ease to 44 Wednesday and Thursday, 1 degree above normal. Albany, NY's high of 36 Tuesday was forecast to rise to 37 Wednesday and ease to 35 Thursday. The seasonal high in Albany is 38. Hanover, NH's 36 high on Tuesday was anticipated to rise to 38 Wednesday and decline to 37 on Thursday. The normal high in Hanover in early December is 37.

Upstate New York and southern Quebec were expected to absorb the most snow. "Colder air will invade the storm in the Northeast, bringing heavy snow in upstate New York and a change to snow in other parts of the mid-Atlantic and New England Wednesday into Thursday," said AccuWeather.com meteorologist Alex Sosnowski.

"A surge of warmer air and heavy rain will continue to push northward through New England and into New Brunswick and Nova Scotia into Wednesday. Meanwhile, the slow movement of the storm will allow cold air to catch up with lingering moisture farther to the southwest in the Northeastern states Wednesday into Thursday."

Portions of the northern tier of Pennsylvania, central and northern upstate New York and southern Quebec are to receive six-12 inches of snow with locally higher amounts through Thursday. A change to snow is forecast in parts of central and southeastern Pennsylvania, as well as central and northern New England as the colder air is drawn into the storm Wednesday into Thursday.

Western markets and producing regions were also firm with gas at Malin gaining 13 cents to $3.51 and deliveries to the PG&E Citygates shedding 3 cents to $3.92. Gas at the SoCal Citygates added 4 cents to $3.84, and gas at the SoCal Border was seen 6 cents higher at $3.64. Deliveries on El Paso S Mainline came in 3 cents higher at $3.64.

Gas on Transwestern San Juan added 7 cents to $3.47, and deliveries to the Cheyenne Hub changed hands up a nickel at $3.41. On CIG Mainline next-day parcels were seen 7 cents higher at $3.44, and at Opal gas gained 5 cents to $3.45. Gas on Northwest WY rose by 8 cents to $3.42.

In its extended forecast, WSI Corp. shows normal to above normal temperatures continuing across the entire country. "[Tuesday's] 11-15 day period forecast is similar, if not a tad warmer than the previous forecast across the eastern U.S. Forecast confidence is about average today, [and] medium-range models are in modest agreement with the general pattern and southern stream storm track.

"There are risks in either direction due to the timing of storm systems," WSI said. "There may be more of a risk to the cooler across the southern half of the nation, but the Northwest, northern Rockies and the north-central U.S. has a slight upside risk."

Analysts see Monday's 21-cent decline as derived at least in part from the imploding petroleum complex. "Although the [natural gas] market may have scooped up some bearish overflow from the oil complex, the primary driver behind today's new lows is still some mild temperature expectations that have been extended into the fourth week of this month in most cases," said Jim Ritterbusch of Ritterbusch and Associates in closing comments Monday to clients. "Based on current forecasts, at least three more sharply downsized supply injections will likely be forthcoming with end-of-year supply developing a significant surplus against year-ago levels. Thursday's [storage report] release will likely show a withdrawal of around 40-45 Bcf that would narrow the supply deficit against last year by another sizable 50 Bcf or so.

"The process of reversing this bearish dynamic of deficit contraction will of course require a sizable shift in the short-term temperature views back to the cold side. And with the arrival of January, overall winter weather trends should acquire some clarity and supplies will likely be viewed as ample to meet the needs of even a cold January. Overall, this market's current double dose of mild temperature expectations and an expected elevation in production should keep the front of the curve under pressure through the rest of this week regardless of Thursday's EIA release. We look for our expected support at $3.55 to be tested as early as [Tuesday] and a further price slide as low as $3.40 is certainly on the table if the forecasts continue to tilt toward the mild side beyond next week."

Tom Saal, vice president at INTL FC Stone in Miami, in his work with Market Profile expected the market to test Monday's value area at $3.673-3.609 followed by a test of $3.824-3.748. "Eventually," he said, look for a test of $3.936-3.876. "Seasonal historical volatility is back at 52.2% and rising...this means expect radical price changes in either direction."

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