Of all the market points followed by NGI, only two managed to trade in positive territory during next-day natural gas physical trading Monday. Near-term weather forecasts at major population centers were at or above normal, and next-day power markets offered little support for incremental purchases for next-say power generation.
The NGI National Spot Gas Average fell a dime to $3.13, and prominent trading hubs saw prices fall about the same amount. Futures traders took one look at overnight weather models and sold early and sold often.
At the close, March had dropped 12.6 cents to $3.232, and April was down 10.9 cents to $3.271. March crude oil fell 54 cents to $52.63/bbl.
Temperature forecasts for New England and the Midwest could do no better than mostly normal readings, although New England quotes managed to make small gains.
Wunderground.com forecast the high Monday in Boston of 36 degrees would slide to 33 Tuesday before rising to 41 Wednesday, 5 degrees above normal. Chicago's Monday high of 29 was seen advancing to 36 Tuesday and retreating to 32 Wednesday, the seasonal norm.
"As with late December, weather models' longer-range calls (out 14 days) remain volatile and, when revising, change to bearish," said industry consultant Genscape Inc. in a Monday morning report. "Last week, most weather models -- including Genscape's -- indicated strong chance of temperatures falling to seasonal to slightly colder-than-normal for most northern-tier regions. Since Thursday, however, models are trending warmer. Genscape mets expect Lower 48 population-weighted degree days today through Thursday to come in lower than previously expected."
Major market trading centers fluctuated around a dime loss. Gas at the Chicago Citygate fell 8 cents to $3.13, and the Henry Hub dropped 9 cents to $3.20. Packages on El Paso Permian skidded 11 cents to $2.96, and gas at the SoCal Border Avg. changed hands a dime lower at $3.11.
Next-day gas at the SoCal Citygate added 12 cents to $3.49, as the forecast high in Los Angeles Monday was expected to reach 80, 12 degrees above normal.
The next-day power market softened as well. Intercontinental Exchange reported on-peak Tuesday power at the PJM West Hub fell $7.99 to $30.27/MWh, and peak power at the Indiana Hub dropped $2.02 to $37.63/MWh.
Futures traders noted that near-term weather forecasts could only come up with transient cold patterns affecting major eastern energy markets.
"A variable pattern overall lends to near-normal temperatures across much of the Midwest and East while aboves are focused from California and the Southwest to Texas,” said MDA Weather services In its Monday morning six- to 10-day outlook. “The main challenge will be timing out a series of intrusions of high pressure from Canada that bring some transient colder opportunities to the East followed by some warming in between.
"The forecast resembles a blend between the colder Global Forecast System and warmer Euro, allowing for some cold opportunity but leaning more toward the Euro and Canadian late in the period, with aboves in the East ahead of an area of low pressure." MDA said risks to the forecast included "variability,” with limited “confidence in the details, with the potential for high-pressure intrusions to be colder while conditions could be warmer in between. The southern tier may be warmer."
Market technicians studying historical chart patterns see market risk to the downside.
"For the years 2007 through 2015 the average seasonal peak date is Dec. 28,” said United ICAP Vice President Walter Zimmermann, in closing comments Friday. "This fact gives a different message to different traders. As analysts looking for tradeable insights, what it means to us is that past 28 December, the surprises will all tend to be to the downside, all the rallies will tend to be bull traps, and all the congestion zones will tend to be bear market rest stops."
According to the National Weather Service (NWS), heating loads for the week are expected at less than a seasonal pace. For the week ended Feb. 4, NWS predicted New England would see 269 heating degree days (HDD), or 12 fewer than normal. The Mid-Atlantic is expected to have 253 HDDs or eight fewer than average, and the greater Midwest is anticipated to have 269 HDDs, or 20 fewer than its normal seasonal tally.