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NatGas Cash Hit With Losses; April Futures Fall 8 Cents

Next-day natural gas trading on Monday seemed almost like a race to the bottom of the barrel as all but two points followed by NGI recorded losses, and most points were seen a nickel to a dime lower. Screen prices weakened as well.

Falling spot power prices, along with loads expected to be as much as 10% less across some grids in the East by the middle of the week, kept eastern next-day gas on the defensive to the tune of nearly 30 cents on average.

The NGI National Spot Gas Average dropped 11 cents to $1.66. April futures skidded 7.9 cents to $1.828, and May shed 8.5 cents to $1.904. The expired April crude oil rose 47 cents to $39.91/bbl.

Forecast power loads from Boston Harbor to western Pennsylvania were expected to fall sharply by mid-week. ISO New England said the peak load Monday of 16,120 MW would fall to 15,820 MW Tuesday and continue falling Wednesday to 15,100 MW. The New York ISO expected peak load Monday of 19,069 MW to slide to 18,701 MW Tuesday before dropping to 18,354 MW Wednesday. PJM was seen taking the biggest hit, as peak load Monday of 34,491 MW was predicted to ease to 34,118 MW Tuesday, but plunge to 31,020 MW by Wednesday.

Next-day gas at the Algonquin Citygate fell $1.16 to $1.94, and deliveries to Iroquois Waddington were quoted 22 cents lower at $1.97. Gas on Tenn Zone 6 200L changed hands 82 cents lower at $2.13.

In the Mid-Atlantic, Tuesday gas on Texas Eastern M-3, Delivery dropped 22 cents to $1.16, and gas on Transco Zone 6 NY plummeted 68 cents to $1.28.

Major market hubs were more resilient. Gas at the Chicago Citygate was seen 3 cents lower at $1.92, and packages at the Henry Hub were seen 8 cents lower at $1.76. On El Paso Permian, gas for next-day delivery traded 3 cents lower at $1.62, and at the PG&E Citygate came in 4 cents lower at $2.00.

Next-day peak power prices also provided little incentive to make incremental gas purchases for power generation. Intercontinental Exchange reported that on-peak power for Tuesday delivery at the ISO New England's Massachusetts Hub fell $11.33 to $25.63/MWh, and peak Tuesday power at the PJM West terminal skidded $9.65 to $27.78/MWh.

Technical analysts are pondering whether last Friday's setback might portend further difficulty for the bullish case.

"To dismantle the Elliott Wave case for one more marginally lower low natgas must break decisively above the $1.965 level," said United ICAP’s Walter Zimmermann in a weekly note to clients. "This $1.965 was last week's key resistance. Was Friday's retreat from a $1.957 high just nervous profit-taking by new bulls in front of the weekend? Or was it a sign of trouble ahead for the bulls?"

Zimmermann's relative strength indicator trading model gave a sell signal Friday from the $1.957 high.

Risk managers are biding their time. DEVO Capital Management President Mike DeVooght said in a weekly comment to clients that last week's bearish storage report "failed to stop the natural gas from rallying. El Nino produced a warmer than normal winter, and there is a good chance we could experience above-average temperatures this summer. An anticipated warmer summer, along with short-covering, has helped the natural gas market to rally over the past couple weeks.

"On a trading basis we are standing on the sidelines for now."

Near-term weather patterns were seen keeping spot traders active, but no major supply-demand shifts are expected.

A trough of low pressure was expected to transition over the Northwest on Monday, while a low-pressure system brushed across the coast of New England, said Wunderground.com meteorologist Kari Strenfel.

"A Pacific system will make its way across the northwestern quadrant of the country. This system will usher light to moderate rain and high-elevation snow over the Pacific Northwest, Northern California, the northern Great Basin and the upper inter-mountain West. Back East, an Atlantic low-pressure system will brush across the coast of New England. Gusty winds and light to moderate snow will affect eastern New England.”

A frontal system also was expected to “sweep across the Great Lakes, producing light snow from northern Wisconsin to New York. A ridge of high pressure will build over the deep South on Monday. Cool and dry weather is expected for most of the Midwest, the deep South, the Mid-Atlantic and the Southeast."

Forecasters predicted temperatures would push deep into the 60s during the early part of the week. Wunderground.com expected Monday's high in New York City of 52 degrees would climb to 56 Tuesday before reaching 69 on Wednesday, 18 degrees above normal. Chicago's high of 45 was expected to jump to 63 Tuesday and ease to 49 by Wednesday, the seasonal norm.

Tom Saal, vice president at FCStone Latin America LLC, in his work with market profile is forecasting an active week of trading. He expected the market to test last week's value area at $1.891 to $1.809 "then test" $1.786 to $1.695. "Maybe" the market will test $2.223 to $2.084.

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