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California, Midwest Natgas Gains Overpower Weak Marcellus; August Makes Positive Debut

Next-day gas firmed in trading Monday as a combination of a strong screen, Midwest warmth, and pipeline outages brought a firm undertone to the market. Overall prices rose 9 cents to $2.59, as gains in the Northeast, East, and Midwest far overshadowed weakness in the Marcellus. Loads in California were forecast to increase more than 20%, but prices made only modest gains.

Futures managed to ramble higher as traders suspected end of quarter window dressing may have prompted some buying. At the close, the now spot month August contract had risen 3.5 cents to $2.805, and September was up 3.4 cents to $2.819. August crude oil fell $1.30 to $58.33/bl.

Chicago and points west saw prices firm as weather forecasts called for increasing temperatures. To the east, price gains were more moderate as the temperature outlook was not quite so robust.

Forecaster Wunderground.com predicted Chicago's Monday high of 73 would rise to 78 Tuesday before sliding to 69 Wednesday. The normal high in Chicago is 84. Kansas City, MO's 90 degree maximum on Monday was seen reaching 93 Tuesday and dropping back to 90 Wednesday. The seasonal high is 84.

Gas on Alliance for Tuesday delivery added 10 cents to $2.82, and packages at the Chicago Citygates gained 8 cents to $2.81. At Demarcation next-day parcels changed hands at $2.76, up a stout 11 cents.

The temperature-price relationship wasn't quite so robust farther east. Wunderground.com forecast the high in Detroit Monday of 81 would ease to 75 Tuesday and recover somewhat to 77 Wednesday. The seasonal high in the Motor City is 81. Gas on Consumers rose 3 cents to $2.87, and deliveries to Michcon added a couple of pennies to $2.87.

In the Northeast, deliveries at some points rose $1 or more. Gas at the Algonquin Citygate added 16 cents to $1.51, but pipeline restrictions helped vault deliveries on Iroquois to double digits. Gas at Iroquois Waddington rose $1.13 to $2.75, and parcels on Tennessee Zone 6 200 L added 17 cents to $1.54.

Iroquois Gas Transmission reported that effective Gas Day June 30, Iroquois nominations are at capacity and sealed from further increases at the interconnect with Algonquin Gas Transmission.

"Receipts through secondary service are subject to allocation, [and] customers will be advised if further capacity becomes available during the day as volumes are nominated and confirmed," the pipeline said on its website.

Throughout the Marcellus prices were generally flat. Gas on Transco Leidy fell a penny to $1.09. On Tennessee Zone 4, Marcellus next-day gas was up 3 cents at $1.08, and gas on Dominion South was unchanged at $1.18.

Gas headed for New York City on Transco Zone 6 jumped 46 cents to $1.94 and gas on Tetco M-3 fell 2 cents to $1.26.

Power loads in California were forecast to soar, but next-day gas and power made only nominal moves as renewable generation of up to 7,000 MW kicks in. The California Independent System Operator forecast peak power Monday of 36,644 MW would soar to 44,705 MW Tuesday.

Gas at the PG&E Citygate jumped 9 cents to $3.23, and gas at the SoCal Citygate added a dime to $3.26. Gas at the SoCal Border was quoted 12 cents higher at $3.04, and deliveries on El Paso S Mainline changed hands 8 cents higher at $3.10.

Intercontinental Exchange reported next-day peak power at NP-15 rose $3.99 to $54.38/MWh, and on-peak power at SP-15 rose by $3.94 to $49.62/MWh.

Longer term weather forecasters called for a slight cooling overall in Monday morning's forecast. Monday’s “six-10 day period forecast is warmer over the interior West, Plains, Midwest and Great Lakes to account for the timing of a potential cold front,” said WSI Corp. forecasters. “The West Coast, north Rockies and the East Coast are a bit cooler. As a result, population-weighted cooling degree days (PWCDD) are down 0.9 to 56.9 for the CONUS.

“Forecast confidence is only average at best. There is reasonable model agreement with the large-scale pattern, but uncertainty with the timing of fronts and unsettled weather across the Plains, Midwest and Northeast. There is also increasing uncertainty with the upstream Pacific pattern due in part to WestPac tropical activity.

"The active and changeable pattern, as well as the expected negative EPO pattern support a risk to the cooler side across the Rockies and the central U.S."

In its early view forecast of the week’s storage figures, Energy Metro Desk showed an average 70 Bcf with a range of 65 Bcf to 74 Bcf. Last year 102 Bcf was injected, and the five-year pace is 75 Bcf.

DEVO Capital Management President Mike DeVooght is standing aside the market for now, both for speculative and hedge accounts. "Moderate temperatures and adequate supplies continue to keep the gas market on the defensive," he said in a weekly note to clients. He recommended traders, producers and end-users hold no positions for now.

United ICAP Vice President Walter Zimmermann said, "The key to trading natgas is to forget that the years 2000 to 2009 ever existed. The precedent for today is 1996 to 2000, and post 2009."

In his view, the market is "still congesting. Even the most wild at heart markets are capable of prolonged bursts of price stability, [and] that has been the case for natgas since late January of this year. [We] see more of the same ahead. For now. There is often an uptick in volatility before a market breaks down from a trading range. There is no such evidence in the case of natgas."

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