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Hefty Heat Prompts NatGas Physical Gains; Futures Crawl Higher

Physical natural gas prices for Wednesday delivery bounded higher in Tuesday's trading, buoyed by strong next-day power prices and forecasts of temperatures well above normal from New England to the Great Lakes.

Gains at eastern points averaged about 18 cents, and the overall NGI Daily Spot Gas Average jumped 7 cents to $2.60. Price advances were widespread and pervasive, and easily overcame modest scattered weakness in the Marcellus. Futures prices inched higher, with October gaining 1.3 cents to $2.702 and November adding 1.0 cents to $2.771. October crude oil resumed its volatile trading, adding a $3.79 decline to Monday's $3.98 advance. October crude settled at $45.41/bbl.

Next-day gas was firm at eastern points, and along the east-west REX Zone 3 corridor prices increased more than a nickel as temperatures across the northern tier of states were seen to be well above normal.

Forecaster Wunderground.com predicted that the high in Boston Tuesday of 83 degrees would jump to 90 Wednesday before easing to 84 Thursday. The normal early September high in Boston is 77. New York City was expected to see its Tuesday maximum of 85 rise to 89 Wednesday and a torrid 93 by Thursday. The seasonal high in New York is 80. The Windy City's high Tuesday of 88 was anticipated to reach 92 Wednesday before dropping to 85 Thursday, 5 degrees above normal.

Gas for delivery Wednesday to the Algonquin Citygate eased 12 cents to $3.63 after posting a $1.18 advance to $3.75 for gas flowing Tuesday. Deliveries to Iroquois, Waddington changed hands a nickel higher at $3.18, and parcels on Tenn Zone 6 200L rose 9 cents to $3.67.

Stout next-day power prices were supportive of incremental purchases of gas for power generation. Intercontinental Exchange reported on-peak power at the ISO New England's Massachusetts Hub rose $5.21 to $56.34/MWh and deliveries to PJM West added $11.92 to $60.60/MWh.

Focusing on the effects of westbound gas on Rockies Express, NGI's Rockies Express Zone 3 Tracker recorded a drop in Zone 3 receipt point utilization due to increased operational capacity as well as a slight dip in receipts for Tuesday flow.

Westward on REX for Wednesday flow, gas deliveries at the Moultrie, IL, interchange with NGPL came in 6 cents lower at $2.71, and packages at the Shelby, IN, junction with ANR fell 6 cents as well to $2.72.

Gas for Wednesday at the Chicago Citygate gained 6 cents to $2.83.

The proximate 12-cent differential between REX Zone 3 points and the Chicago Citygate may undergo some changes as additional volumes of gas can be expected to work their way west on REX. REX has completed construction of all remaining facilities on the Zone 3 East-to-West Project and received authorization from FERC to place these facilities into service effective Sept. 1.

Other market centers firmed as well. Gas at the Henry Hub added 6 cents to $2.74, and parcels on El Paso Permian added 4 cents to $2.61. Gas at the PG&E Citygate rose 3 cents to $3.13, and Transwestern San Juan gas came in 4 cents higher at $2.61.

Weather forecasts continue to turn warmer. MDA Weather Services in its morning six- to 10-day outlook said, "The forecast trends warmer today in the Midcontinent, which is a response to slower and weaker push of cooler temperatures into the region. Above-normal temperatures are expected for most locales in the eastern half, including the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, where temperatures peak in the upper 80s to the near 90 F around mid-period. Overall, this period is cooler versus conditions in the one- to five-day period, but it remains quite warm relative to the 10- and 30-year PWCDD normals. Variability continues to highlight the forecast in the West, where a seasonal outlook is favored."

MDA added that risks to the forecast include the ECMWF (European model) "shows a hotter pattern in the eastern half, with potential for MAs in the Midwest and Northeast. The West could be cooler based on biased corrected model data."

The soaring petroleum complex is not likely to influence natural gas much, and "gas will remain heavily influenced by the weather and despite some hot temperatures expected across the eastern half of the nation within the next couple of weeks, the advanced stage of the CDD cycle and lack of significant storm threat to the GOM infrastructure is precluding sustainable price rallies," said Jim Ritterbusch of Ritterbusch and Associates in closing comments to clients Monday.

"The market could receive its usual dose of volatility come Thursday with the release of the EIA storage report. But we feel that a seasonal injection roughly 20 Bcf above average builds for the fourth week of August has been appropriately discounted. For now, we are maintaining a bullish stance as we continue to advise purchases of October futures at around current levels for an expected trading turn up to about the $2.85 area. This remains a market conducive toward option-writing strategies designed to collect premium."

Tropical Storm Fred is not expected to be a threat to the United States. At 5 p.m. EDT Tuesday it was 330 miles northwest of the Cape Verde Islands, according to the National Hurricane Center. Maximum sustained winds had lessened to 50 mph, and the storm was headed west-northwest at 12 mph. 

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