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NatGas Cash, Futures Post Double-Digit Gains as Summer Arrives

Summer's official start began with a bang as next-day gas surged higher in Monday's trading, lifted by a supportive screen and temperature forecasts calling for above normal readings. No points followed by NGI fell into the loss column, while gains upwards of 20 cents were common.

The NGI National Spot Gas Average gained 19 cents, and advances in the East pushed 40 cents on average. Several Marcellus points traded at 1 year highs.

Futures responded to the siren call of warmer near-term temperatures, and at the close July was up 12.4 cents to $2.747, a new nine-month high, while August added 11.1 cents to $2.777. July crude oil rose $1.39 to $49.37/bbl.

Several Marcellus points posted one-year highs. Dominion South vaulted 27 cents to $1.88, and gas on Tennessee Zone 4 Marcellus jumped 22 cents to $1.78. Gas priced at Tennessee Zone 4 313 Pool changed hands a stout 21 cents higher at $1.89, and deliveries to Transco Leidy added 19 cents to $1.74.

Above-average temperatures were forecast for eastern market centers. AccuWeather.com expected Boston's high of 83 degrees on Monday would reach 86 on Tuesday before dropping to 78 on Wednesday. The normal high in Boston is 78. New York City's high Monday of 83 was predicted to reach 84 on Tuesday before sliding to 82 Wednesday, 1 degree above normal. Dallas' 93 high on Monday was expected to reach 95 Tuesday and Wednesday, 2 degrees above normal.

Next-day power prices also made incremental purchases of gas for power generation more attractive. Intercontinental Exchange reported on-peak power Tuesday at the ISO New England's Massachusetts Hub rose $2.03 to $36.17/MWh, and on-peak power at the PJM West terminal added 8 cents to $41.68/MWh.

Next-day gas at California points also rose, as intense heat and high expected power loads lifted quotes. CAISO forecast that Monday's peak load of 43,728 MW would rise to 45,429 MW Tuesday.

Gas at Malin rose 12 cents to $2.66, and deliveries to PG&E Citygate gained 19 cents to $2.98. Gas priced at the SoCal Citygate came in 12 cents higher at $3.14 and deliveries to the SoCal Border Avg. Average rose 11 cents to $2.95. Gas on El Paso S. Mainline/N. Baja rose 14 cents to $3.05.

Gas buyers for power generation across the Southwest had their hands full Monday.

"Extreme heat will impact the Southwest on Monday, while a cold front shifts across the Great Lakes," said Wunderground.com meteorologist Keri Strenfel. "A large ridge of high pressure will build over the southern Plains and the Southwest. Temperatures will spike above 110 degrees across many locations stretching from southern California to the Four Corners, [and] portions of the Desert Southwest will hit 120 degrees during Monday afternoon.

"Excessive heat warnings are in effect for Southern California, southern Nevada, Arizona and parts of Utah. Heat advisories are also in place for central Nevada and southwest New Mexico. Relatively cool air will linger over the Pacific Northwest. Daytime heating will trigger isolated showers and thunderstorms in portions of Washington."

Risk managers suggested that it's time to implement an options-based hedging strategy. "Natural gas closed the week 3.5% higher, which was the fourth consecutive week that prices have settled in the positive," said DEVO Capital Management President Mike DeVooght. Last week's "trading range of $2.53-2.64 was much tighter than the past few weeks, and although the market was not very volatile, the higher highs and higher lows kept the uptrend intact.

"Spot month gas prices haven't been this high since September 2015. Futures prices have been primarily supported by expectations of hotter weather and short-covering. Cash gas daily prices had been lagging but saw significant increases this week, with El Paso-Blanco prices increasing from $2.13 last weekend to $2.60 this weekend. SoCal Citygate increased from $2.32 to $3.02 during the same period as cooling demand in the Southwest shoots higher. We still feel that we are at levels that represent attractive levels for producers to start to establish forward sales. But since we are not bearish, we would establish hedges with either floors or collars."

DeVooght recommended that trading and end-user accounts stand aside, but physical market longs should "hold an August-July $2.70 put and short a $3.50 call at flat or hold a $2.75 put and short a $3.75 call paying 7 cents."

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