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NatGas Cash Steady, Outlasts Slumping Futures; June Sheds Nearly A Dime

Physical natural gas for delivery Tuesday remained largely unscathed in Monday trading as gains in the Northeast and Appalachia were able to balance softer pricing in Texas, Louisiana, the Midwest and Midcontinent. The NGI National Spot Gas Average was down a penny at $2.87.

Futures trading was a different matter as prices opened weak and continued lower throughout the session with traders citing no significant weather developments and prices still trading within recent ranges. At the close June had fallen 9.4 cents to $3.172 and July was off 9.3 cents to $3.257. June crude oil continued its recovery adding 21 cents to $46.43/bbl.

New England and Northeast prices managed modest gains as energy demand forecasts were steady. ISO New England forecast that peak load Monday of 14,000 MW would hold through Tuesday and ease Wednesday to 13,800 MW. The PJM Interconnection expected peak load Monday of 30,054 MW to ease to 30,008 Tuesday and 29,559 MW Wednesday.

Gas at the Algonquin Citygate rose 21 cents to $3.22 and deliveries to Iroquois, Waddington slipped 3 cents to $3.17. Gas on Tenn Zone 6 200L added 22 cents to $3.17.

Gas on Texas Eastern M-3, Delivery gained 12 cents to $2.91 and deliveries to New York City on Transco Zone 6 rose 13 cents to $2.93.

Next-day peak power prices were narrowly mixed. Intercontinental Exchange reported Tuesday peak power at the ISO New England's Massachusetts Hub eased 31 cents to $31.69/MWh and power at the PJM West terminal rose $1.69 to $34.23/MWh. Tuesday power at the Indiana Hub fell 87 cents to $35.13/MWh.

Prices at major trading centers were mostly lower. Gas at the Chicago Citygate fell 4 cents to $2.92 and packages at the Henry Hub were quoted 4 cents lower at $3.03. Deliveries to El Paso Permian shed 4 cents to $2.61 and gas on Panhandle Eastern lost 6 cents to $2.66.

Kern Receipts changed hands 1 cent lower at $2.68 and gas at the SoCal Citygate also fell 1 cent to $3.11.

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In the Midwest Vector Pipeline announced an unplanned Force Majeure for the I1 cycle last Friday due to a line strike event in Lake County, IN, according to industry consultant Genscape.

"The section of the pipe in jeopardy was immediately isolated and all services with a path scheduled through this section were netted to zero. Flow through the Joliet CS had already been significantly decreased - to an average of only around 150 MMcf/d from May 1 to May 4 -- due to the planned maintenance Vector was already experiencing that began on May 1," Genscape said.

Futures opened 6 cents lower Monday morning at $3.21 as weather forecasts offered little in the way of substantive change and risk managers looked for a spot to initiate short hedges.

Weather models see a cool East and West Coast and an above-average Midcontinent. "The forecast trends warmer from Sunday's report in the Midwest and parts of the East, while any cooler adjustments are limited to a few locales in the West," said MDA Weather Services in its morning six- to 10-day report to clients. “Overall, this period continues to feature a coverage of below-normal temperatures in the East, but with moderating trends as the coolest readings take focus in the early half when low pressure tracks near the coast.

"By late period, increased storminess in the Midcontinent out ahead of a deepened western trough will have temperatures warming closer to seasonal norms in the East while aboves return to the Midwest at that time. Still cooler risks are seen along the West Coast per model consensus, and the Euro Op is faster to warm the East, but both the Euro and GFS [Global Forecast System] ensembles are slower in this regard, a mixed risk there."

Risk managers are looking for a spot to sell.

"The gas market continues to trade in a choppy two-sided range as market participants bide their time awaiting the cooling season demand," said Mike DeVooght, president of DEVO Capital, in a weekly report to clients. "The weekly gas storage numbers [+67 Bcf] came in slightly higher than anticipated.

"On a trading basis, we still continue to look for the market to run out of steam at current levels. We think there is a good chance that we could test the lows of late February in the next few months. We will hold current short positions for producers and will look at rallies to the $3.40-3.50 range for the balance of the year as a selling opportunity."

In spite of nearly a dime setback traders characterized futures trading as rangebound. "It's kind of bouncing inside this little range," said a New York floor trader. "I think the lean is still to the downside. That being said there doesn't seem to be a lot of conviction."

The early read on the week's storage report found The Desk in its Early View survey with an average 53 Bcf injection, below last year and the five-year average. Last year 58 Bcf was injected and the five-year pace stands at 73 Bcf. The average was from a sample of 12 traders and analysts and the range on the survey was 48 to 61 Bcf.

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