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Northeast NatGas Gains Balance Broader Weakness; Futures Drift Lower

Physical natural gas for Wednesday delivery managed to stay unchanged on average in Tuesday trading as gains in the Northeast and Appalachia managed to offset losses in the Midwest, Midcontinent, Rockies and California. The NGI National Spot Gas Average came in down a cent at $2.93.

Futures traders see choppy, sideways trading with no convincing trend, and although some feel a long-term bullish market will eventually emerge, that time is not now, they say. At the close June had fallen 2.0 cents to $3.195 and July was off 1.9 cents to $3.274. June crude oil tumbled $1.18 to $47.66/bbl.

Quotes in New England rose as forecasters called for temperatures below seasonal norms. Wunderground.com predicted the high in Boston Tuesday of 57 would reach 60 Wednesday before easing to 59 Thursday, 2 degrees below normal. New York City's Tuesday high of 73 was expected to fall to 59 Wednesday before reaching 63 Thursday, 4 degrees below normal.

Gas at the Algonquin Citygate rose 25 cents to $3.22 but gas on Iroquois Waddington fell a penny to $3.20. Gas on Tennessee Zone 6 200 L added 25 cents to $3.19.

The National Weather Service in New York City said, "A cold front moves through during the late morning/early afternoon hours [Wednesday] with some cloud buildup, but with no rainfall expected. Breezy behind the front with diminishing clouds later in the afternoon. High temperatures will be a little below normal in most cases, but for the south shores of Long Island and Connecticut they will be closer to normal due to offshore winds.

"Mainly clear with diminishing winds for Wednesday night as a high pressure center shifts in from the west."

Next-day gas entering the Chicago markets continued to soften as Vector Pipeline is expected to remain out of service until the middle of the month.

Gas at the Chicago Citygate slumped 3 cents to $2.96 and deliveries to Alliance fell 4 cents to $2.94. Parcels on Consumers were quoted 2 cents lower at $3.04.

Other major market centers were well into the red. Gas at the Henry Hub fell 6 cents to $3.11 and gas on El Paso Permian retreated 6 cents to $2.64. Gas on Northern Natural Demarcation came in 2 cents lower at $2.91 and Kern Receipts changed hands 7 cents lower at $2.68. Gas priced at the SoCal Border Average shed 6 cents to $2.76.

Futures opened unchanged Tuesday morning at $3.21 as traders attempted to navigate a directionless market while weather forecasts called for cooler conditions and heating loads to be above seasonal norms.

"The 6-10 day period forecast is a bit cooler than yesterday's forecast, except across the Rockies and Plains," said WSI Corp. in its Tuesday morning report to clients. Continental United States gas-weighted heating degree days “are up 2.8 to 40, which are 8.8 above average, and PWCDDs [population-weighted cooling degree days] are down 0.5 to 8.9.

“Any small shift with the track of these systems can cause the forecast to deviate. There is still a slight colder risk over the East and Southwest. The Northwest, northern Rockies and central U.S. have some minor warmer potential."

Traders are awaiting the proper moment to strike in initiating a short position but admit that timing such a trade in current choppy conditions is difficult. "While price volatility of the past month has been a bit stretched compared to usual tendencies during early spring, the fact that values at the beginning of May are essentially unchanged from the start of April is not uncommon," said Jim Ritterbusch of Ritterbusch and Associates in a Tuesday morning report to clients.

"As the market proceeds through the shoulder period, a major event is usually required to force a sustained price move, and such an event has not been forthcoming. Meanwhile, money managers were forced off of a longstanding net short position via the strong 40% price advance across March and into early April. At the present time, the funds and other speculative entities appear noncommittal in approaching this market from either side amidst choppy trading conditions.

"So while our trading bias remains bearish in anticipation of an eventual decline to about $3.05 per nearest futures, the timing in establishing a short position amidst a wide swinging market remains difficult. We will likely await a supportive storage figure on Thursday capable of pushing June futures up to about the $3.33 area before establishing a new short recommendation."

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