Weekend and Monday parcels were mixed in Friday's gas trading as eastern and Mid-Atlantic points were down by multi-dollar denominations, but market points in the Midwest and those more closely aligned with the Henry Hub gained ground.
Forecasts for the Mid-Atlantic called for temperature moderation over the weekend, but Midwest temperature trends still held readings well below normal, and most points added a dollar or more. The Gulf Coast, Midcontinent, Rockies and California were up by well over a dime. On average, the market fell 57 cents to $4.93. Futures gravitated higher and posted the third winning day in a row. March added 11.7 cents to $2.951, and April rose by 9.7 cents to $2.972. March crude oil expired at $50.34, down 82 cents.
Mid-Atlantic weekend and Monday gas fell hard as temperatures were forecast to reach near-normal levels during the weekend and Monday peak power prices plummeted. AccuWeather.com predicted that the high in Philadelphia Friday of 18 would jump to 33 on Saturday and advance to 46 on Sunday. The seasonal high in Philadelphia is 45. Baltimore, MD's Friday maximum of 17 was seen reaching 30 by Saturday and up to 45 Sunday. The normal high in Baltimore is 47. Richmond, VA's 20 high Friday was predicted to rise to 39 Saturday and 51 Sunday, just 2 degrees below normal.
Gas bound for New York City on Transco Zone 6 fell $1.69 to $19.96, and deliveries on Tetco M-3 fell $2.97 to $11.84.
Price declines in New England far outdid those in the Marcellus. Gas at the Algonquin Citygates for weekend and Monday delivery shed $3.56 to $13.53, and gas at Iroquois Waddington fell 24 cents to $11.17. Gas on Tennessee Zone 6 200 L was off by $4.11 to $10.98.
Gas on Tennessee Zone 4 Marcellus was down by 16 cents to $1.32, and packages at Transco Leidy were off by 8 cents to $1.41. Gas on Dominion South fell 17 cents to $2.65.
Peak power for Monday delivery across the East dropped by double or in some cases triple digits. Intercontinental Exchange reported that peak Monday power at the New York ISO Zone G (eastern New York) delivery point fell by $23.00 to $151.00/MWh and at the ISO New England's Massachusetts Hub Monday peak power was quoted at $130.31/MWh, down $32.69. Peak power at the PJM West terminal tumbled $105.39 to $109.16/MWh.
Peak power prices may be down for Monday, but Appalachia and the Southeast Mid-Atlantic continued to flirt with if not surpass demand records, according to industry consultants. Genscape said, "Appalachia demand set a new single-day record high of 22.28 Bcf/d [Thursday], as confirmed in the data. This exceeded the previous high of 21.75 Bcf/d set last winter on Jan.28, 2014.
"Southeast/Mid-Atlantic demand came within 0.11 Bcf/d of setting a new record as well. Thursday's demand was 24.18 Bcf/d. The current record high was set this Jan. 7, 2015 at 24.29 Bcf/d. A brief reprieve from the cold weather hitting the Midwest and eastern U.S. is expected this weekend before another bout of below-normal temperatures blankets the market next week. Temperatures in Chicago, Boston, New York, [Washington] DC, and Atlanta are forecast to run 10-20 degrees F below seasonal norms on Monday and Tuesday, with the potential to do so again in Appalachia and New England later in the week.
"Genscape's regional demand forecasts have Midwest demand cresting at 16 Bcf/d again by Monday; New England demand flirting with max-capacity limits over 4 Bcf/d on Monday and Tuesday; Appalachia demand breaking the 22 Bcf/d mark again on Monday; and SEMA [Southeast Mid-Atlantic] demand cresting 18 Bcf/d and remaining there through Thursday."
At Midwest points $1 and $2 gains for weekend and Monday gas were seen as weather conditions refused to moderate. AccuWeather.com reported that Chicago' high of 21 was seen rising to 31 Saturday before falling to 14 Sunday, a mere 23 degrees below normal. Detroit's 13 high on Friday was predicted to reach 30 on Saturday but slide to 20 on Sunday. The normal high in Detroit is 34.
Gas on Alliance jumped $1.19 to $7.20, and parcels at the ANR Joliet Hub rose by $1.37 to $7.31. Gas at Demarcation added $2.47 to $6.80, and gas on Consumers rose by $1.09 to $6.76. On Michcon, weekend and Monday gas changed hands at $5.96, up 65 cents.
Weather forecasts came in slightly colder overnight as the dominant pattern of western ridging shifts. MDA Weather Services in its Friday morning six- to 10-day outlook said, "The forecast features a pattern shift in this period as the dominant western ridge over the past several weeks regresses back into the central-North Pacific (a response to the recent rise in the SOI -- Southern Oscillation Index).
"While this allows for colder temperatures in the West, the East looks to remain quite cold, with widespread much and strong 'belows' from the Plains to the East Coast. The forecast trends colder [Friday], once again, in the central U.S., where models point to even stronger cold potential as high pressure drops into the region from mid to late period. The West likewise carries colder risks."
Analysts acknowledge that the cold weather is at least a temporary supporting factor, but down the road the next major price move is likely to be lower. "[T]he weather factor remains heavily skewed in a bullish direction. Although some significant moderation is expected later next week, this market will likely require a shift toward warmer than normal trends before gathering much downside price momentum," said Jim Ritterbusch of Ritterbusch and Associates in closing comments Thursday to clients.
"Regardless, we still see the next 35-cent price move as more apt to develop on the downside rather than on the upside given the fact that a supply surplus has now been established against the five-year averages. While this overhang of about 58 Bcf could prove brief given this week's extreme cold, a sizable surplus against last year continues to grow and is currently approximating a whopping 680 Bcf. And with winter winding down and production still approaching record levels, the market would appear to be poised for a sizable selloff next month that could easily reach to our targeted $2.50 area. All in all, our basic trading strategy remains the same as we still advise shorts into the April contract within the $2.80-2.88 zone with stop protection above $2.90 on a close-only basis."
Technical analysts, however, see a case unfolding for a short-term advance that could take prices above $3. "[We] see no reason to abandon the case for an ABC advance unfolding from the $2.567 low," said Brian LaRose, a technical analyst at United ICAP. "The question for Friday, can the bulls clear the $2.882/2.896/2.885 highs? If so, natgas has immediate room to $3.088 (a=c), possibly even $3.283-3.322 (1.618 a=c). Fail to break out above the recent highs and further consolidation remains possible near term."