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Broad Gains Outweigh Northeast Losses; Futures Traders See $2.40 By Month’s End

Next-day cash prices were mostly higher in Monday's trading, overcoming stiff declines at a few Northeast points to gain 5 cents overall to $3.23.

Futures continued to grind lower with traders speculating that at the end of the month spot futures may be as much as 30 cents lower. At the close April had retreated 3.6 cents to $2.698, and May was down 3.2 cents to $2.739. April crude oil fell 17 cents to $49.59/bbl.

In the East and Northeast, next-day gas prices moved in tandem with Tuesday peak power. Intercontinental Exchange reported that Tuesday peak power at the ISO New England's Massachusetts Hub fell $17.96 to $106.82/MWh, yet at the PJM West Hub Tuesday peak power rose $8.94 to $49.26/MWh.

At the Algonquin Citygates, Tuesday packages fell $3.47 to $12.45, and on Iroquois, Waddington next-day deliveries skidded $2.04 to $5.69. On Tennessee Zone 6 200 L gas was seen at $10.05, down $3.95.

Power loads in the Mid-Atlantic were also higher. The New York ISO forecast New York City's peak load Monday of 7,019 MW would rise to 7,109 MW Tuesday before slumping to 6,708 MW Wednesday.

Gas bound for New York City on Transco Zone 6 gained $1.04 to $4.49, and on Tetco M-3 was quoted at $3.01, up 28 cents.

In the Marcellus, prices firmed. Tuesday gas on Millennium added 12 cents to $1.44, and deliveries to Transco Leidy rose by 14 cents to $1.19. On Tennessee Zone 4 Marcellus next-day gas came in at $1.12, up 14 cents. and gas on Dominion South rose by 13 cents to $2.05.

Next-day temperature forecasts were variable. Forecaster Wunderground.com predicted the Monday high in Boston of 37 would fall to 31 Tuesday but hit 43 by Wednesday. The seasonal high in Boston is 42. New Haven, CT's temperatures were nearly the same, with Monday’s high, also 37, expected to decline to 31 Tuesday before reaching 41 Wednesday, the seasonal high.

The National Weather Service in southeast Massachusetts expected high pressure to move over the region Monday night “bringing a crisp...cool...dry night.” By Tuesday morning, “high pressure will begin to move offshore ahead of an approaching system. A storm system across southern Canada with a trailing cold front will be the focus for wintry weather late Tuesday into Wednesday.

“This system will stall south of the region Wednesday night into Thursday resulting in renewed winter weather outcomes. Thursday night onward...continued colder than normal conditions with additional weather disturbances."

Forecasts for the Mid-Atlantic showed a similar variability. Wunderground.com forecasters said  New York City's Monday high of 37 would ease to 34 Tuesday then climb to 45 Wednesday, the normal high. Philadelphia's 42 high Monday was expected to slide to 36 Tuesday before making it to 46 Wednesday. The normal high in Philadelphia for early March is 45.

Buyers for gas-fired generation for the next couple of days across the broad PJM footprint are likely to have their hands full as cold fronts and associated wind generation drive power loads. Cold high pressure is expected to  slide across the power pool...into Tuesday morning,” said WSI Corp. “The next frontal system and its associated warm front will spread a round of a wintry mix across the power pool during Tuesday, but the bulk of this mix should change to rain during Tuesday night into Wednesday as warmer air moves into the region.

"A few inches of snow and a glaze of ice are possible before the changeover. On the other hand, a trailing cold front may cause rain to change back to a period of wet snow during Wednesday night into Thursday morning. Eventually, this cold front will usher cold high pressure back into the power pool during the end of the week.”

Wind generation was expected to subside Monday, according to WSI. “A brisk southwest to northwest wind associated with the expected frontal system will lead to a period of strong wind generation during Tuesday and Wednesday. Output may peak over 5 GW. Wind generation may relax from this peak but remain elevated during the end of the week."

The Midwest and Great Lakes posted solid gains. Gas for Tuesday delivery on Alliance rose 32 cents to $3.22, and packages at ANR Joliet gained 32 cents to $3.22. Parcels at the Chicago Citygates added 22 cents to $3.06, and gas on Michcon was quoted 25 cents higher at $3.15. On Consumers, next-day parcels were seen atg $3.27, up 29 cents.

Next-day temperature forecasts showed the same variability as eastern points. Wunderground.com predicted the high in Milwaukee, WI Monday of 33 would reach 38 Tuesday before dropping to 18 on Wednesday. The normal high is 37. Chicago's Monday high of 29 was expected to rise to 40 by Tuesday but retreat to 19 on Wednesday. The seasonal high in the Windy City is 41.

Gulf points were solidly in the black. Tuesday gas on Transco Zone 3 added 7 cents to $2.90, and gas at the Henry Hub was quoted 7 cents higher at $2.84. Parcels on Tennessee 500 L gained 8 cents to $2.85, and gas at Katy came in a dime higher at $2.81.

Futures traders are looking lower.

"I don't think we have found a bottom yet,” said a New York floor trader. “There is just so much supply out there, we're coming to the end of winter, but there are shorts out there and any time you get a spike in the market it feeds on itself and some shorts cover. I think you need to sell this market. We are at the high end of prices for the month. I look for $2.40 by the end of the month."

Overnight weather forecasts warmed. In its Monday morning 11- to 15-day forecast, WSI said the outlook is "warmer than previous forecasts across the eastern two-thirds of the nation, while the West Coast is a bit cooler due to model trends and the period shift. Period HDDs [heating degree days] are down four to around 95. Forecast confidence is average. Medium-range models are in good agreement and have been consistent with the pattern change, but confidence is hampered during times of change and based on technical model differences.

"The potential pattern shift supports a slight warmer risk across the eastern half of the nation, especially late in the period. Much of the West and Southwest have a risk to the cooler side."

Risk managers are carefully watching $2.45 as a key decision point in their market strategy. "Natural gas settled lower across the board” last week, noted DEVO Capital’s Mike DeVooght. “The weekly storage number was considered negative because of a smaller than anticipated draw, [and] colder than normal temperatures was not enough to offset the negative storage number.

"On a trade basis, if the $2.45 level is broken, we will liquidate our long speculative positions." In the absence of a market below $2.45, DeVooght recommended that both trading accounts and end-users hold a long April $4.20 call option and a short April $3.90 put. He also said to buy an April $3 call option Monday morning. Producers and physical market longs should stand aside.

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