Weekend and Monday natural gas prices fell in trading Friday as hefty gains in the Northeast were unable to offset much broader weakness across the country.
Colder eastern temperatures spurred dollar-plus gains in New England, but could not counter stout double-digit declines in producing zones as well as Midwest market zones, and the NGI National Spot Gas Average fell 11 cents to $3.23. Rocky Mountain and California locations were particularly hard hit as weather conditions were forecast to moderate considerably.
February futures, after digging into a 7-cent hole at the open, managed to scramble back and finish just over unchanged with a gain of nine-tenths of a cent to $3.391. March futures eased 3.9 cents to $3.358. March crude oil fell 61 cents to $53.17/bbl.
Next-day gas was pummeled, but the clouds parted, the sun shone, and Southern California was expected to see temperatures above normal. AccuWeather.com forecast that Los Angeles' Friday high of 64 degrees would jump to 71 Saturday and rise to 76 by Monday, 8 degrees above normal. San Diego's Friday high of 65 was predicted to climb to 70 Saturday and reach 71 by Monday, 6 degrees above normal.
Deliveries to Malin fell 25 cents to $3.14, and gas at the PG&E Citygate dropped 14 cents to $3.62. Gas at the SoCal Citygate tumbled 32 cents to $3.37, and packages priced at the SoCal Border Avg. Average shed 24 cents to $3.21.
Power loads were expected to lighten as well. CAISO forecast that Friday's peak load of 29,598 MW was predicted to drop to 27,467 MW Saturday.
Conversely, on the East Coast weekend and Monday gas jumped as forecasts called for temperatures to work lower. AccuWeather.com predicted that the high Friday in Boston of 44 would ease to 42 by Saturday before dropping to 36 Monday, the seasonal average.
Major trading centers declined. Gas at the Chicago Citygate fell 13 cents to $3.21, and deliveries to the Henry Hub lost 13 cents as well to $3.29. Gas on El Paso Permian changed hands 18 cents lower at $3.07, and gas at Opal gave up 28 cents to $3.10. Kern River Deliveries were quoted 25 cents lower at $3.23.
Futures opened lower as forecast cold was expected to be less intense than previously thought.
Trader skepticism of recent market strength was proven correct, at least for the moment, with the overnight price retreat.
"The rally appeared to be discounting another arctic event that has failed to acquire strong consensus within the weather models," said Jim Ritterbusch of Ritterbusch and Associates in a Friday morning report to clients. "While some colder trends are still expected later next week, deviations from normal don't appear sizable nor sufficiently broad-based to suggest a major storage decline. [Thursday's] 119 Bcf drop in supply again exceeded our expectation by a significant margin, and it appears that some structural shifts are developing to drive storage declines beyond those that might be implied by HDDs.
"Power demand remains stout; export activity is still strong, and production continues to show limited response to the recent upswing in the rig counts. While storage is apt to establish a surplus of at least 60-70 Bcf with next week's EIA report, this overhang could prove short lived, and the aforementioned structural changes strongly suggest a significant deficit situation when supply peaks seasonally in a couple of months."
Gas buyers for power generation across MISO over the weekend could expect to have to deal with significant cold, but also ample wind generation to offset gas purchases. "A brisk and persistent northwest wind beneath a deep upper-level trough will support seasonably cold and breezy conditions across the power pool through the weekend," said WSI Corp. in its Friday morning report to clients.
"Max temps will range in the 20s, 30s to low 40s across the Midwest along with minimums in the teens and 20s. The cold flow and a few embedded disturbances will support a chance for a few snow showers and lake-effect snow.
"A persistent northwest wind will lead to elevated wind generation through Sunday morning. Output is forecast to peak today as high as 9-11 GW. After a brief lull, a southwest-to-northwest wind associated with the Clipper will bolster output early next week."