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Cash NatGas Weakens; Futures Drift Lower

Physical natural gas for Friday slipped in Thursday trading as mild temperatures in the East and Northeast along with soft New England power prices pressured quotes.

Healthy drops were seen in Texas, the Rockies and California. The NGI National Spot Gas Average fell 5 cents to $1.94. Futures trading was lackluster before Friday's Energy Information Administration (EIA) inventory report as traders consolidated positions. At the close, December was 0.3 cent lower at $2.260 and January had given up 0.7 cent to $2.445. December crude oil fell $1.18 to $41.75/bbl.

Friday's storage injection report will push inventories into uncharted territory, but some think degree day-driven models will be off the mark as low prices have prompted fuel-switching and increased usage. Last year, 47 Bcf was injected and the five-year average stands at 23 Bcf. A Reuters survey of 24 traders and analysts revealed a 51 Bcf average with a range of 41 to 78 Bcf. Ritterbusch and Associates is looking for a 57 Bcf injection, and Citi Futures Perspective is placing its bets on a 78 Bcf build.

Louisville, KY-based Genscape, a power and energy industry price consultant, is expecting a 44 Bcf build.

Energy Metro Desk in its weekly survey sees a "rapid tightening in the gas market due to low prices bringing on more gas demand, which is allowing the injection to decrease, further, with lower NGWDDs. This week we are only expecting a 48 Bcf injection."

Futures traders are focusing on weather and usage. "Although its getting cooler in the evening the daytime has been warming up where you haven't needed to pump up the heat. That probably says more about the market. There is just a lack of usage," said a New York floor trader.

Analysts see the market see-sawing between the forces of burdensome inventory and those of seasonal demand with the burdensome inventory camp winning out.

"The market could also said to be consolidating ahead of the DOE storage report for the week ended Nov. 6," said Tim Evans of Citi Futures Perspective in closing comments Wednesday. "The news wire surveys seem to [show a consensus of ] 50-51 Bcf, a minor step down from the 52 Bcf build in the prior week despite warmer than normal temperatures that limited heating demand. Our weather-based model forecasts a significantly higher 78 Bcf refill, which we read as highlighting the risk of a bearish surprise."

The Energy Information Administration weekly storage report was delayed one day to Friday because of the Veterans Day Holiday.

In the physical market, sliding next-day power prices softened New England prices. Intercontinental Exchange reported that on-peak Friday power at the ISO New England's Massachusetts Hub fell $3.46 to $30.93/MWh.

Gas at the Algonquin Citygate shed 25 cents to $2.44, and gas on Tenn Zone 6 200L skidded 32 cents to $2.32.

In the Mid-Atlantic, steady power prices led to firm next-day gas. Intercontinental Exchange said on-peak Friday power at the PJM West terminal rose 20 cents to $30.50/MWh.

Gas on Texas Eastern M-3, Delivery added 6 cents to $1.26, and gas bound for New York City on Transco Zone 6 gained 26 cents to $1.79.

AccuWeather.com forecast that Boston's Thursday high of 55 would rise to 59 Friday before dropping to 47 Saturday. The seasonal high in Boston is 52.

Other trading hubs were noticeably weaker. Gas at the Chicago Citygate dropped a nickel to $2.11, and deliveries to the Henry Hub gave up a dime to $2.01. Gas on El Paso Permian was quoted 13 cents lower at $1.90, and deliveries to the SoCal Border Avg. fell 16 cents to $2.13.

Weather forecasters see little change in GWHDDs, but they also see a risk to the upside for populous eastern markets. "The six-10 day forecast depicts anomalous warmth over the eastern half of the nation and below average temps over the West," WSI Corp. said in its Thursday morning report. "Some upward revisions were made early in the period, but the forecast is colder over the Rockies and central U.S. by day 10. GWHDDs are down 0.3 to 75 for the period.

"Forecast confidence is near average [Thursday] as medium-range models are in reasonably good agreement with the general pattern. However, there are a lot of moving parts within a anomalous, energetic and changeable stretch of weather that hamper confidence levels. The forecast still has room to sway in either direction at this point, especially on a localized basis. There is still a general upside risk over the southern and eastern U.S. The Rockies and central U.S. have a risk to the colder side by the end of the period."

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