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Physical NatGas Posts Modest Gain, Yet Expiring November Stumbles

Next-day gas on average firmed in Wednesday's trading, but most market points moved within a few pennies of unchanged. Outsized price moves at a few New England points continued to skew the market higher, and the NGI National Spot Gas Average rose 1 cent to $2.15. Points in the East, however, averaged close to a 30-cent gain.

Near-term weather forecasts hover right at seasonal norms, if not a touch above, and next-day power prices moved about a $1.00 either side of unchanged. Futures trading continued to the downside with the expired November contract posting a settlement of $2.033, down 5.9 cents, and December followed suit with a drop of 6.3 cents to $2.298. December crude oil jumped $2.74 to $45.94/bbl.

Temperatures throughout most of the country were mild with the exception of the Midwest and Great Lakes, where cold air was forecast to make its way south from Canada. Wunderground.com forecast that Chicago's high of 53 Wednesday would drop to 51 Thursday before climbing to 56 on Friday. The normal high in the Windy City is 58. But New York City was forecast to see a Wednesday high of 60 jump to 71 Thursday before retreating back to 60 on Friday, the seasonal high.

Deliveries to Alliance added 2 cents to $2.44, and gas at the Chicago Citygate rose 8 cents to $2.44. Packages on Consumers were seen at $2.46, down a penny, and gas on Michigan Consolidated changed hands at $2.44, up a penny.

A Michigan marketer reported that most customers were full and in some cases had to sell gas back.

"We've had to sell gas back on Michigan Consolidated for several days now for a grain dryer who didn't need it," the marketer said. "It's been a scramble around here trying to allocate the gas to different customers.”

Gas in New England vaulted higher as Algonquin Gas Transmission continued to report ongoing curtailments west of its Stony Point Compressor Station. Deliveries to the Algonquin Citygate rose 74 cents to $6.25, and gas at Iroquois, Waddington eased a dime to $2.71. Gas on Tenn Zone 6 200L jumped 68 cents to $4.65.

Next-day power prices moved modestly. On-peak power at the Indiana Hub rose 88 cents to $31.25/MWh but power at the ISO New England's Massachusetts Hub fell $2.89 to $51.36/MWh. Thursday on-peak power at the PJM West Hub fell $1.89 to $34.02/MWh.

According to forecasters, the East should see above normal temperatures in the latter half of the six- to 10-day period. MDA Weather Services said in its Wednesday six- to 10-day outlook said a “strong negative PNA [Pacific North American] pattern with a ridge in the East and trough in the West promotes widespread ‘much aboves’ in the eastern half, while some belows are found in the West.

“Some onshore flow from high pressure to the north limits temperatures in the East early before moving out and allowing temperatures to rise to much above normal levels by Day 8. Meanwhile, the strong ridging pushes temperatures up to strong above normal levels for a day or two in the Upper Midwest. The ridge is expected to weaken late as a trough over Northeastern Canada begins to dip southward."

Risks to the forecast include temperatures peaking higher across the East and rain limiting temperature advances in the South early on.

Analysts are circumspect about the recent price plunge.

The decline in prices in the past two weeks “raises some questions regarding what it all means," said Tim Evans of Citi Futures Perspective. In fundamental terms, though, “we see it as both a reflection of the forecast for warmer than normal temperatures that will allow some further robust storage refills and a case of what's cheap becoming even cheaper.

“While there may be some temptation to look for an extension of the downtrend, we see the market as increasingly oversold. The recent decline appears to have been exhausted just ahead of the $1.902 per MMBtu low from April 2012, but even a minor new low would not turn us bearish at this point.

For Thursday's Energy Information Administration storage report, Evans calculated a build of 66 Bcf and by mid-November he expects the year-on-five year surplus to grow to 265 Bcf, up from a current 163 Bcf surplus.

Ritterbusch and Associates is estimating 76 Bcf will be added to storage, while IAF Advisors has a 67 Bcf estimate. A Reuters survey of 21 traders and analysts revealed an average 69 Bcf with a range of 62 Bcf to 85 Bcf.

Tom Saal, vice president at FC Stone Latin America, LLC in his work with Market Profile, expected the market to test Tuesday's value area at $2.107-2.065. The market "could test last week's value area" at $2.476-2.356.” The November 2015 natural gas contract expired Wednesday. “Expect to see something we have not seen in a while, short covering," he said.

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