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Oppressive Heat Lifts NatGas Physical Market More Than A Dime; Futures Climb

Physical natural gas for Tuesday delivery bounded higher in Monday's trading as a blast of hot, humid weather hit major population centers in the East.

Multi-dollar gains were recorded at some eastern points, andNGI’s National Spot Gas Average rose 16 cents to $2.70. A few points in the Gulf Coast, Midcontinent and West Texas did manage to slip into the loss column, but only by a penny or two. Futures traders were unimpressed with the oppressive heat and humidity ripping through physical markets, and at the close August was up 1.3 cents to $2.789 and September had gained 1.3 cents as well to $2.788. September crude oil shed 75 cents to $47.39/bbl.

Gas buyers seeking additional supplies for power generation had an easy time of it as soaring next-day peak power and forecast power loads provided a hefty incentive to make incremental purchases. Intercontinental Exchange reported that on-peak power Tuesday at the ISO New England's Massachusetts Hub soared $18.39 to $54.39/MWh and on-peak power at the PJM West terminal gained $9.51 to $54.09/MWh.

Gas on Tetco M-3 added 41 cents to $1.69, and deliveries to Transco Zone 6 New York added $1.29 to $2.96.

Gas in the Northeast averaged more than a 50-cent gain, and packages at the Algonquin Citygate jumped $2.73 to $4.12. Deliveries to Iroquois Waddington gained 36 cents to $3.19. Gas on Tennessee Zone 6 200 L vaulted $2.02 to $3.63.

Accuweather.com meteorologists look for temperatures in the East to peak Wednesday as an area of high pressure is responsible for this week's heat wave as it pumps hot, muggy air over the region from the South, said meteorologist Edward Vallee.

"Areas from Baltimore to New York City and even up to Boston are forecast to climb above 90 F on a daily basis, while areas farther inland top out closer to the 90-degree mark. Many cities in the Northeast have already hit 90 F multiple times this year, but this heat wave could bring the longest stretch of 90-degrees days so far this year. When the high humidity and scorching sunshine are taken into account, [heat indexes] can easily surpass 100 F. Heat indexes will approach 110 in some spots, Vallee said.

Forecasters at Wunderground.com predicted that Monday's high of 84 in New York City would rise to 90 Tuesday and reach 95 by Wednesday. The normal high in New York City in late July is 84. Chicago's 84 high Monday was expected to climb to 88 Tuesday and Wednesday, four degrees above normal. Dallas' Monday high of 100 registered a heat index of 108, and by Tuesday highs were expected to be 101 before reaching 103 Wednesday. The normal high in Dallas is 95.

Firm gas prices as well as on-peak power prices and high loads weren't confined to the East Coast. CAISO predicted Monday's peak load of 36,865 MW would reach a stout 42,141 MW Tuesday.

Gas at Malin rose 6 cents to $2.83, and deliveries to the PG&E Citygate gained 6 cents to $3.23. Gas at the SoCal Border changed hands 9 cents higher at $2.98, and deliveries to SoCal Citygate were quoted 7 cents higher to $3.15. Gas on El Paso S Mainline came in 7 cents higher at $2.99.

Intercontinental Exchange reported on-peak power Tuesday at NP-15 rose $7.78 to $42.28/MWh and power at SP-15 gained $2.68 to $41.21/MWh.

The failure of natural gas prices to break out of a well-defined $2.75 to $3 trading range has Goldman Sachs lowering its estimate of prices for the second half 2015. "Natural gas prices have remained range bound near $2.80/MMBtu as weak industrial demand and elevated gas production require gas to price against PRB [Powder River Basin] coal to burn excess supply," said analysts Damien Courvalin and Raquel Ohana in a recent report.

"Our updated supply-demand balance and expectation for an only gradual recovery in industrial demand given normalized Northeast production requires high levels of price-induced coal-to-gas switching through the fall, and leads us to downgrade our 2H15 forecast to $2.75/MMBtu. While a hot August could still push prices higher, the upside will be limited by low Appalachian coal prices with the historical distribution of weather putting the likelihood of gas rallying sustainably above $3.00/MMBtu at less than 6% (see related story).

August Central Appalachian Coal Futures settled Monday at $43.13/ton or $1.87/MMBtu.

Longer-term weather forecasts changed little overnight, with just slight differences in details. Commodity Weather Group in its Monday morning report said, "Overnight models edged warmer for the Midwest in the six-10 day with mixed changes in the 11-15 day. The main story holds with this week seeing the hottest weather of the forecast period across the Midwest and East before we see a transition toward mainly Western heat and Midwest to East cooling tendencies.

"The one change we saw [Sunday] morning continues today with lingering modest warmth on the East Coast this weekend into Monday (early half of six-10 day), but the European guidance is maintaining this concept the most as both the American and Canadian ensemble prefer a near-normal East Coast six-10 day.

"The West is not quite as hot today in the six-10 as forecast back on Friday, and the Deep South is also slightly cooler from Friday (Dallas finally hits its first 100 F of the season yesterday). The end of the 11-15 day shows some variability to watch, but the CFS [Climate Forecast System] keeps the cool pattern going deep into August," said Matt Rogers, president of the firm.

Mike DeVooght, president of DEVO Capital, a Colorado-based trading and risk management firm, is taking a neutral market stance for now. "On a trade basis, it's difficult to make a case for a significant move, either up or down, in the gas market at this time. We will continue to stand aside and await future developments."

DeVooght recommends that trading accounts, end-users, and producers await further developments before entering the market.

Tom Saal, vice president at FC Stone Latin America LLC in Miami, in his work with Market Profile expects the market to test last week's value area at $2.915 to $2.825 and then test $2.762 to $2.670, and "eventually" test $3.103 to $3.007. "Only participating traders can determine natural gas futures market value, everyone else are just spectators," he said in a Monday morning note to clients.

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