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New England Jumps, Yet Overall Market Down A Dime; Futures Mixed

Next-day gas prices in Tuesday's trading took most of their guidance from the power sector as New England posted strong gains, but the rest of the country saw losses of from a dime to upwards of 20 cents.

Broad declines in the Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, Rockies and California were enough to offset soaring prices in New England. Overall, the market fell 58 cents to $5.30. Futures moved little. The March contract added 2.3 cents to $2.902, and April eased 0.4 cent to $2.889. April crude oil fell 17 cents to $49.28/bbl.

Next-day prices at New England points saw multi-dollar gains, and although next-day temperature forecasts called for an increase in temperatures, traders elected to follow the lead of the next-day power market. Intercontinental Exchange reported next-day peak power at the ISO New England's Massachusetts Hub rose $11.79 to $199.73/MWh, and peak Wednesday power at the New York ISO's Zone G (eastern New York) delivery terminal gained $14.00 to $165.00/MWh.

Gas at the Algonquin Citygates rose $2.58 to $29.99, and deliveries to Iroquois Waddington added $4.92 to $19.06. Gas on Tennessee Zone 6 200 L gained $1.55 to $28.31.

Prices tumbled in the Mid-Atlantic along with next-day peak power. Intercontinental Exchange said that peak power for delivery to PJM West Wednesday fell $77.32 to $74.03/MWh.

Gas prices followed suit. Gas bound for New York City on Transco Zone 6 plummeted $9.20 to $13.83, and gas on Tetco M-3 skidded $7.52 to $10.75.

Packages at Marcellus points turned in a mixed performance. Gas on Transco Leidy added 8 cents to $1.61, and parcels on Tennessee Zone 4 Marcellus changed hands unchanged at $1.50. Deliveries on Dominion South were seen 24 cents lower at $2.92.

AccuWeather.com predicted that temperatures along the Eastern Seaboard would rise Wednesday but still remain below seasonal norms. The forecaster said Boston's high of 18 Tuesday would reach 32 on Wednesday before slipping to 22 Thursday. The normal high in Boston is 41. New York City's forecast high of 23 Tuesday was seen rising to 37 Wednesday and falling back to 24 Thursday. The seasonal high in the Big Apple is 44. Philadelphia's 26 maximum on Tuesday was anticipated to climb to 36 Wednesday before falling to 29 Thursday. The normal high in Philadelphia this time of year is 46.

New England is expected to remain in winter's icy grip. "With the gates of the Arctic wide open much of this week, temperatures will plunge to painful and dangerous levels around Boston most days," said AccuWeather.com's Alex Sosnowski.

"Low temperatures set in the late 1800s to early 1900s will be challenged with lows on the coldest nights dipping down into the single digits F. Lows most nights will be in the teens F. While the overall magnitude of the cold will not be as extreme as last week, [wind chill] temperatures will still dip below zero F at times. As a consolation, most of the week will be free of precipitation.

"However, some snow is forecast to move through on Tuesday night, delivering a few quick inches to southeastern Massachusetts with the city on the northwest flank. This is not expected to become a major snowstorm but will still add to this year's record snowfall totals, bringing the season total to over 100 inches."

Prices at the Gulf and Midcontinent weakened. Packages on ANR SE fell 7 cents to $3.13, and gas at the Henry Hub shed 7 cents to $3.12. Gas on Tennessee 500 L was quoted at $3.14, down 8 cents, and packages at Katy came in 16 cents lower at $3.00.

Deliveries to NGPL TX OK stumbled 14 cents to $2.96, and gas on ANR SW fell 15 cents to $2.90. Deliveries on Panhandle Eastern fell by 17 cents to $2.88, and gas on OGT was quoted 27 cents lower at $2.78.

Analysts see a choppy market near term, with a possible price spike, but longer term they are looking lower. "This week still looks exceptionally cold, and next week is apt to see moderation but with much of the upper Midcontinent still seeing significantly below-normal weather trends," said Jim Ritterbusch of Ritterbusch and Associates in closing comments Monday. "From here, it appears that some more 'pushing and pulling' lies ahead given the counter forces of production strength and the short-term weather-related demand spike. We feel that the market has likely priced in a couple of large back-to-back supply withdrawals that could drop end-of-season storage to below the 1.65 Tcf level.

"While such a stock would prove ample, especially in comparison with last year, the market will still be vulnerable to the temperature factor for another week or so. We have moved to a sideline stance for now as we look for a place to re-establish a short holding. Despite [Monday's] downside reversal, we can't rule out another lift back to above the $3 mark, especially if Thursday's EIA report indicates a huge withdrawal of more than 250 Bcf, a decline that would imply a narrowing in the year over year surplus of 120 Bcf or more. From a longer-term perspective, we are leaving our downside target of $2.50 on the table."

Gas buyers for Wednesday looked to have their hands full as weather forecasters were calling for a series of active weather systems to pummel the country. Kari Strenfel, a meteorologist with Wunderground.com, said, "A low-pressure system will shift across the Four Corners on Tuesday, while a cold front will move across the upper Midwest. An area of low pressure will slide eastward over the Four Corners, [and] this system will usher moderate to heavy snow over the southern Rockies.

"Meanwhile, an arctic high-pressure system will move eastward over the Ohio Valley and the Northeast. Cold, arctic air will collide with an onshore flow from the Gulf of Mexico, resulting in mixed precipitation from the southern Plains to the Southeast.

"A cold frontal boundary will swing across the upper Midwest, the Great Lakes and the Ohio Valley. Light to moderate snow showers will be possible across the upper intermountain West, the northern Plains, the upper Midwest, the lower Great Lakes and parts of the interior Mid-Atlantic. Periods of heavy snow will develop over Michigan on Tuesday."

Longer term, Wunderground.com sees major population centers continuing to endure below-normal temperatures. New York City on Friday is expected to see a high of 27 and that rises to 39 by next Wednesday, still 5 degrees below normal. Chicago has it worse. It's Friday high of 17 is expected to make it to only 22 by next Wednesday, 17 degrees off its seasonal norm.

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