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NatGas Cash, Futures Trudge Lower; August Sheds Nearly 4 Cents

Physical natural gas for delivery Wednesday eased in Tuesday's trading as relative strength at Appalachia, Rockies, and California points was unable to offset soft Northeast pricing.

The NGI National Spot Gas Average fell 7 cents to $2.58, and weak Northeast pricing was unable to shrug off a soft next-day power price environment. Futures fared little better. The soon-to-expire August contract shed 3.5 cents to $2.712 and September fell 3.5 cents also to $2.677. September crude oil couldn't get out of its own way and dropped 21 cents to $42.92/bbl.

August and September both gave ground, but in the eyes of one New York floor trader, "the only thing that held it 'up' was short-covering. September is the same way, if it doesn't hold $2.60 to $2.62, watch out. Maybe if it gets to $2.75, you have a shot to the upside, but it’s going to be tough."

The lack of a pronounced trend has traders bracketing the market with well-defined support and resistance levels. "I think $2.65 is a big number [lower], and when you look at the upside $3 is an obvious choice," said Steve Blair, a broker with Rafferty Commodities Group.

"I think $3 is resistance not only from a technical standpoint, but also at $3 power generators with the capability of switching back to coal do so. The market says a lot when we have incredibly hot weather we haven't seen over the Lower 48 in quite a while, and yet the price of gas can't quite get itself going. That's not the overriding factor. It's the glut of gas we have in the U.S.

"As we get over $3 I'm not sure what the pivot point is, but some of these rig operators will open shut-in wells."

Analysts see a softening physical market pressuring prices.

"[Monday's] losses proved minor by the end of the regular session and reinforced our opinion of a market poised to spend most of its time this week within the $2.70-2.80 zone, even within the rollover to the lower price September contract on Thursday," said Jim Ritterbusch of Ritterbusch and Associates in closing comments Monday.

"The front switch remains taunt at around a 3.5-cent inversion ahead of midweek expiry. However, the physical pricing is apt to soften this week as temperatures moderate in possibly setting up August futures for a support test at about the $2.70 level as early as Tuesday. Thursday's EIA report is unlikely to spur much price response as an injection marginally downsized from last week’s 34-Bcf build has likely been discounted. For now, we are maintaining a neutral stance in a market that is apt to see negligible change some one to two weeks down the road."

Overnight weather models changed little. "No major changes were made to the forecast today in this period, with the large-scale pattern remaining broadly warmer than normal nationally," said MDA Weather Services in its six- to 10-day Monday morning report. “The focus of the warmest anomalies precede an area of low pressure tracking across the Northern Tier, with above to near much above normal readings around the Great Lakes in the latter stages.

"The East likewise favors above normal temperatures on average, with anomalies being weak there in the early half before westerly flow brings more intense aboves to the East Coast late. The Southwest is kept near seasonal norms due to increased monsoonal moisture there.The American model presents hotter risks in the Plains and Midwest. Models are more reluctant to fade high pressure along the East Coast in the second, suggesting slower warming for then."

In the physical market, falling next-day eastern power prices made incremental purchases for power generation less attractive. Intercontinental Exchange reported that on-peak power for Wednesday delivery at the ISO New England's Massachusetts Hub fell $6.59 to $50.01/MWh and on-peak next-day power at the PJM West terminal gave up $5.34 to $42.89/MWh.

Gas at the Algonquin Citygate shed 8 cents to $3.17, and packages on Iroquois, Waddington were off 16 cents to $2.87. Gas on Tennessee Zone 6 200 L retreated 11 cents to $3.08.

Gas on Texas Eastern M-3, Delivery changed hands 6 cents lower at $1.58, and parcels bound for New York City on Transco Zone 6 fell 17 cents to $2.62.

Next-day gas in the Marcellus traded within a few pennies of unchanged. Gas on Dominion South was flat at $1.47, and gas priced at Tennessee Zone 4 Marcellus added 4 cents to $1.39. Gas on Transco-Leidy Line was quoted 2 cents lower at $1.45.

Gas at the Chicago Citygate was seen a nickel lower at $2.70, and deliveries to the Henry Hub fell 9 cents to $2.72. Gas at the SoCal Citygate came in 9 cents higher at $3.17.

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