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NatGas Cash Firms As Futures Atone For Friday's Dive; January Adds 2 Cents

Physical natural gas for Tuesday delivery was mostly higher across a broad front as stormy conditions were forecast to envelop the central U.S. and next-day power prices proved supportive. Many points experienced double-digit gains and the NGI National Spot Gas Average rose by 10 cents to $2.08.

Eastern points advanced about a nickel. Futures were able to recover somewhat from Friday's thinly traded decline of nearly 9 cents and at the close January had risen 2.3 cents to $2.235 and February was up by 2.5 cents to $2.290. January crude oil fell 6 cents to $41.65/bbl.

Next-day gas in the Midwest advanced and although temperature forecasts proved nominal, next-day power proved helpful to those having to make incremental gas power purchases. Intercontinental Exchange reported next-day peak power at the Indiana Hub gained $2.40 to $2.790.

AccuWeather.com said Monday's high in Chicago of 45 would hold Tuesday and slide to 40 on Wednesday, a degree short of normal. Detroit's 45 high on Monday was anticipated to rise to 51 by Tuesday before dropping to 43 Wednesday, 2 degrees above the seasonal norm.

Gas on Alliance rose by 19 cents to $2.24 and deliveries to the Chicago Citygate added 19 cents also to $2.25. Deliveries to Joliet were higher by 19 cents to $2.24.

Points along the newly expanded REX Zone 3 also rose. Deliveries to NGPL in Moultrie County, IL gained 16 cents to $2.14 and gas on Panhandle Eastern at the Putnam County interconnect added 13 cents to $2.13. Gas at Lebanon, OH, rose by 12 cents to $2.11.

Low prices may finally be taking their toll. Industry Consultant Genscape reported falling production everywhere but the East. "Overall, Lower 48 production for November 2015 will be down compared to October 2015 by about 0.7 Bcf/d. Texas and the Gulf of Mexico witnessed declines of 0.2 Bcf/d each, while Louisiana and Oklahoma saw declines of 0.1 Bcf/d and 0.2 Bcf/d, respectively. The Rockies, San Juan, Bakken and Permian New Mexico as a group were down 0.3 bcf/d total. Each saw declines across the board regionally.

“Only the Eastern region saw production gains in November versus October. Those gains were concentrated in Pennsylvania and Ohio of 0.5 Bcf/d and 0.08 Bcf/d, respectively, while West Virginia saw a large decline of approximately 0.3 Bcf/d," the company said in a report.

A Michigan marketer was having problems with more gas, not less. "We can only hope that we didn't overbuy for December. We had some Michigan Consolidated and Consumers customers whose meter reads were supposed to be made on the 30th of the month but instead were read on the 25th and that is not so good. It's been cold the end of the month, but with a meter read on the 25th they will have more reported gas in storage and we may have overbought," a Michigan marketer lamented.

Other major hubs were mostly higher. Next-day gas at the Henry Hub rose by 3 cents to $2.09 and deliveries to the Algonquin Citygate fell 27 cents to $2.35. Gas on El Paso Permian added 20 cents to $2.19 and deliveries to SoCal Citygate gained 24 cents to $2.57.

Weather forecasts continued to gravitate to a milder outlook. In its Monday morning report, WSI Corp. shows the entire country in both the six- to 10-day and 11- to 15-day time frames ranging from normal to much above normal. "The latest six-10 day period is similar to Friday's forecast. The northern and eastern U.S. is a little warmer. The southwestern U.S. is a little cooler. GWHDDs are down 1.6 to 105.5 for the CONUS.

"Forecast confidence is a little above average as medium-range models are in good agreement and have been consistent with the development of a mild pattern. The details with a series of cut-off systems offer some localized uncertainty and a downside risk across the southern half of the nation. The northern Rockies and northern tier could run even warmer."

The moderating weather patterns haven't deterred risk managers from probing the long side of the market. Mike DeVooght, president of DEVO Capital, a Colorado-based trading and risk management firm, said in a weekly report to clients, "On a trading basis, we did take a small long position in the January contract. If we break the $2.10 level in the spot December contract, we will exit the position and stand aside."

December futures settled Wednesday at $2.206 after trading as low as $2.133. DeVooght advises both trading accounts and end-users to hold on to the long January position at $2.50, but producers should stand aside.

Market technicians don't see any immediate movement either higher or lower. "[We] see the January contract facing the same challenges that the December contract did when it rolled into the spot position," said Brian LaRose, a market technician with United ICAP. "To build a case for long-term bottoming action bulls need to push natural gas above $2.441, 2.547-2.557-2.563 and 2.723. To keep the down trend intact, bears need to crack the two recent lows at $2.051 and $1.948. In between we are stuck in neutral territory."

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