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Eastern NatGas Cash Jumps as Summer Heat Won't Let Go, But Futures Traders Turn Sellers

Physical natural gas for Wednesday delivery jumped at most points as titanic gains at eastern points shifted the trading landscape upwards and traders braced for one last blast of warm and humid conditions before summer makes way for fall.

A few points fell into the loss column, but double-digit gains ruled the roost for the most part. The NGI National Spot Gas Average rose a stout 14 cents to $2.58. Futures trading headed the opposite direction. At the close, October had skidded 7.5 cents to $2.717 and November had fallen 5.6 cents to $2.842. October crude oil tacked on 39 cents to $44.83/bbl.

The day's decline in futures was enough to push some to the "sell" camp. "If we break $2.77, I think we'll see $2.30," said Alan Harry, director of trading at McNamara Options in New York. "If we break $2.75, I'm a scale-in seller from there."

According to Accuweather.com meteorologists, "July-like heat will make a comeback over the Northeast this week as temperatures hit 10-15 degrees above average. Temperatures from Philadelphia to Washington, DC, and Richmond, VA, will hit 90 F or higher each day through Friday."

Algonquin Citygate deliveries added $1.11 to $2.94, and gas at Iroquois, Waddington rose 85 cents to $2.94. Deliveries to Tennessee Zone 6 200 L gained $1.10 to $2.91.

Gas on Transco Zone 6 NY changed hands at $2.16, up 93 cents, and parcels at Texas Eastern M-3, Delivery gained 29 cents to $1.43.

Other market centers were not quite so exuberant. Gas at the Chicago Citygate gained 4 cents to $2.81, but deliveries to the Henry Hub were quoted 3 cents lower at $2.82. Gas on El Paso Permian rose 9 cents to $2.59, and packages at PG&E Citygate added a nickel to $3.27.

"New York City and Hartford, CT, will experience 90-degree temperatures during the latter part of this week," said Alex Sosnowski, Accuweather.com meteorologist. "Average highs for early September range from the middle 70s in Boston to the middle 80s in Washington, DC [heat index] temperatures will climb past 100 for several hours during the afternoon. The pattern will also make for warm nights, when compared to the past week or so."

Western Canada prices have turned volatile as a combination of weather, wind generation, and plant maintenance have kept traders hopping. "There's been a lot of volatility at [Westcoast] Station 2 the last couple of weeks," Genscape's Rick Margolin told NGI.

"We've seen production in BC bounce 100 to 250 MMcf/d up and down, and on the demand side we have seen it extraordinarily hot. There were cooling loads kicking in and that demand went away really quickly because they had a big spike in wind generation, and there has been some pretty good hydro output in BC and the Pacific Northwest."

Next-day gas at AECO C fell $C0.17 to $C2.10/Gj, and deliveries to Westcoast Station 2 vaulted $C0.99 to $1.64. Gas at Empress changed hands $C0.08 lower at $C 2.83/Gj.

Additional volatility may lie ahead as well "Three-week planned turnaround maintenance beginning Wednesday, Sept. 7 at Spectra's Fort Nelson North processing facility could cut close to 100 MMcf/d of production onto Westcoast," Genscape said in a report. "The Fort Nelson North facility is a separate entity from the Fort Nelson plant, [and] the North plant will be offline from the 7th through the 28th, with zero processing capacity for the duration of the outage.

"This maintenance is one of three plant turnarounds affecting Westcoast's receipts this month. A two-week shutdown at the Dawson Creek plant is scheduled to begin on Friday, Sept. 9, and last through Saturday, Sept. 24. The Fort Nelson gas plant will shut down Wednesday, Sept. 28, through Friday, Sept. 30, which Genscape expects will cut about 250 MMcf/d of production."

Forecasters are still calling for elevated temperatures extending out the next two weeks. "[Tuesday's] 11-15 day period forecast is warmer than yesterday's forecast across the Rockies and central U.S.," said WSI Corp. in its Tuesday morning report. "The East is a bit cooler. CONUS PWCDDs are only down 0.1 for days 11-14 to 25.6 for the period. Forecast confidence is considered average. Medium-range models are in modest agreement with the pattern, but the pattern becomes less defined with no strong signals, [and] the Tropics also offer some uncertainty.

"A weakening pattern and potential WP-like pattern over the Pacific offers some downside along the East and West Coasts. The interior West and central U.S. have some minor upside potential."

That seemingly supportive forecast is not enough for some bulls. "This market has begun the new week under further downside price pressures largely related to weekend adjustments within the weather factor," said Jim Ritterbusch of Ritterbusch and Associates in a Tuesday morning note to clients. "Hot temperatures that had supported values into early last week have seen a significant shift, with the Midcontinent expected to see normalization within the consensus of updated six-14 day views. While normal temperature trends may appear price-neutral, such patterns at this time of the year tend to associate with limited air conditioning requirements and, hence, a downsizing in electricity generation demand.

"This will be boosting storage injections going forward despite the current hot spell that is keeping physical Henry Hub pricing at around a 10-cent premium to the nearby screen. This, in turn, is keeping the fall-winter portion of the gas curve quite stout, with the front switch trading at about an 11-cent contango compared to about a 23-cent carrying charge last spring. This comparatively narrow spread could be increasing the attraction of investment type speculative longs into the market as roll yields are not as much a deterrent as was the case earlier in the summer."

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