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Cash NatGas Falls Hard; Futures Gain

Until Friday, spot gas traded for next-day delivery at most points did not have to suffer the indignity of trading below $2, as November futures did prior to expiration on Tuesday. That all changed with natural gas traded for the weekend and Monday.

Traders had no desire to commit to three-day deals looking down the barrel of a mild temperature forecast. Only two points followed by NGI failed to record a double-digit loss, and the NGI National Spot Gas Average swooned 24 cents to $1.90. Futures prices rebounded as December managed a gain of 6.4 cents to $2.321 and January added 6.7 cents to $2.490. December crude oil added 53 cents to $46.59/bbl.

The Midwest was hit as hard as anywhere, with the region taking about a 30-cent hit from Thursday's trading. By Monday, temperatures were forecast to be above seasonal norms, and AccuWeather.com forecast that Chicago's Friday high of 56 would ease to 54 before jumping 11 degrees on Monday to 65, 8 degrees above normal. New York City was expected to see its Friday peak of 59 ease to 55 Saturday before making it to 63 on Monday, 4 degrees above its seasonal average.

Gas for delivery on Alliance tumbled 27 cents to $2.08, and deliveries to the Chicago Citygate slumped 28 cents to $2.06. On Consumers, next-day gas was seen at $2.16, down 26 cents, and gas on Michigan Consolidated fell 27 cents, also to $2.16. Parcels on Northern Natural Ventura changed hands 26 cents lower at $2.03.

Physical gas at the Henry Hub came in at $1.94 and like futures, it was the lowest point since April 2012. Other major hubs were on the skids as well. Gas at Opal was quoted at $1.93, down 16 cents, and gas at the SoCal Border Avg. fell 24 cents to $1.96. Gas on El Paso Permian fell 25 cents to $1.78.

In the Northeast, in spite of hefty restrictions, prices at the Algonquin Citygate tumbled nearly $1. Algonquin Gas Transmission reported 100% restrictions in and around its Stony Point, Oxford and Hanover compressor stations as well as its interconnect with Tennessee at Mendon. Only primary, firm, no-notice nominations would be accepted, the company said on its website.

Gas at the Algonquin Citygate plunged 99 cents to $4.83 for Sunday and Monday packages, and deliveries to Iroquois, Waddington fell 26 cents to $2.42. Gas on Tenn Zone 6 200L shed 47 cents to $4.40.

Not all futures traders are buying the notion that the technical gap left on the daily charts by the expiration of the December contract, the rollover gap, is going to be filled. "Just look at today's trading," a New York floor trader told NGI. "We settled at up 6 cents, and volume in the December was 165,00, and that's a big number. You can see how aggressively traders brought the price up. I think you will see buying come in around the $2.18 level, but you have to look at support near term at $2.25."

As weak as the market appears, analysts don't see another test of Tuesday's November contract lows any time soon. "The December futures are posting new lows this morning in keeping this bear market much alive," said Jim Ritterbusch of Ritterbusch and Associates in a Friday morning note to clients. "However, we still don't expect the December contract to test the pre-expiration November futures lows of $1.95 despite the fact that mild temperature views are beginning to stretch toward mid-November.

"We feel that the weather-induced likelihood of a 4 Tcf supply peak has been discounted and that above-normal temperature trends will need to see extension well into the third week of next month if nearby gas futures are to push much lower. Forcing prices down at this late stage of the shoulder period is usually challenging given winter weather uncertainties."

Market technicians see December futures having to make Herculean strides in order to keep the market from trending lower. Brian LaRose, a market technician at United ICAP, said he has a number of bearish models but only one bullish model. In order to validate the bullish model "bulls would need to push natural gas up and over $2.441 and $2.723. For the 12-month strip, both $2.765 and $2.958 would need to be exceeded. As long as natural gas (and the 12-month strip) remains beneath these levels, the trend will continue to point down. End of story," he said in closing comments Thursday.

Gas buyers for power generation across the MISO footprint should have plenty of renewable energy to work with over the weekend. In its Friday morning report WSI Corp. said, "High pressure will briefly slide across the power pool [Friday], but the next frontal system will spread a round of showers across the region today through Saturday. Fair weather and a significant warming trend are expected during Sunday into early next week across the majority of the power pool. A southerly flow will push temperatures into the upper 50s, 60s to 70s by Monday and Tuesday.

"Light wind generation will persist this morning. However, the frontal system will cause wind gen to ramp up later today through Saturday. A developing south-east wind will continue to support elevated wind gen through early next week. During this period, output will peak upward of 6-8 GW."

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