Next-day natural gas values rose modestly in trading Tuesday as most points recorded gains of a few pennies to a nickel or more.
Few points traded in negative territory, and the NGI National Spot Gas Average gained 2 cents to $1.82. Flat pricing in California was offset by gains in Texas, the Gulf Coast and Midwest. Futures managed to pull back from the abyss of sub-$2 pricing. At the close June had added 1.9 cents to $2.048 and July had risen eight-tenths of a cent to $2.185. June crude oil rose 59 cents to $48.31/bbl.
One school of thought has Henry Hub spot prices advancing north of $3 by December, but in the interim, prices in the absence of meaningful weather developments will be left to the dictates of supply and demand.
Analysts see the market supported by expected production declines even though the pace of decline is not as rapid (or non-existent) as had been anticipated.
"In the absence of any headlines, the market is relying upon production and demand shifts that can be grindingly slow when weather virtually becomes a non-item, as is presently the case," said Jim Ritterbusch of Ritterbusch and Associates in a Tuesday morning report to clients. "But while the dynamic of production slippage in natural gas may not be able to advance gas prices, it does appear capable of limiting price declines.
Those price advances may come later in the year. "Gas prices are projected to increase for the balance of 2016, with Henry Hub spot moving above $3/MMBtu in December," PIRA Energy said in a report. "Seasonal basis strength in the Northeast lift New England and New York prices above $5/MMBtu in December with further increases in January-February 2017. As a result, we look for a significant improvement in coal unit competitiveness during the 2016-2017 winter."
"Meanwhile, the cash market at Henry Hub is coming under renewed pressures as overnight cold spells across the upper Midwest will soon become a thing of the past in potentially pushing values back into the $1.80s," Ritterbusch said. "With spot discounts still more than 10 cents below the nearby screen, the large carrying charges extending out to next winter could see additional expansion in encouraging some speculative capital back into the short side, given highly favorable roll yields that enhance the appeal of long-term or investment-type trades."
PIRA also said, "Spot on-peak power prices increased from March levels in nearly all eastern markets, supported by higher gas prices and maintenance outages. Colder weather in the Northeast and Midwest nearly offset the impact of weaker cooling demand across the South. Given lackluster March heating loads, demand was only slightly weaker in April, and the loss was countered by lower hydro generation and imports."
In Tuesday's spot gas trading next-day power was unable to be of much help to eastern market points. Intercontinental Exchange reported that on peak power at ISO New England's Massachusetts Hub fell $2.86 to $21.67/MWh, but next-day power at PJM West terminal rose 99 cents to $27.96/MWh. On-peak power at the Indiana Hub was unchanged at $26.25/MWh.
Across the country, a new 30-day high was posted for gas traded at Northwest Sumas of $1.62, four cents above its previous 30-day high.
Weather forecasters hint at an upcoming warm pattern. In its Tuesday morning report, Commodity Weather Group forecasters said they "continue to track a warmer period for the East Coast in the second half of next week, with the potential for the first burst of 80s seen this month in the Middle Atlantic. Since it is still in the 11-15 day range, though, confidence continues to run lower than normal.
"The end of the European ensembles shows upstream pattern signals for cooler risks (more ridging around Alaska and the North Pole), but it still shows a warm ridge extension along the northern half of the U.S., which is a bit stronger than yesterday. That means the North could walk into June a bit warmer, but the South is still unsettled and cool-sided."
The week's heating load is expected to increase in major markets. The National Weather Service said for the week ending May 21 New England should see 63 heating degree days (HDD), or five more than the norm. The Mid-Atlantic was expected to see 67 HDD, or 23 more than its seasonal norm, and the greater Midwest from Ohio to Wisconsin was anticipated to see 64 HDD, or 15 more than its normal tally.