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NatGas Cash More Resilient Than Floundering Futures; June Tumbles 12 Cents

Physical natural gas for Wednesday delivery worked lower Tuesday as moderating weather forecasts in the nation's midsection kept buyers in the driver's seat, and countered forecasts of high eastern energy demand and power prices.

The NGI National Spot Gas Average fell 6 cents to $3.02, and strength in the Northeast was unable to offset weakness in West Texas, the Rockies, California and the Midcontinent. Futures tumbled as traders saw the possibility of recent high prices being a seasonal high. At the close June had dropped 11.9 cents to $3.230 and July was off 11.4 cents to $3.315. June crude oil eased 19 cents to $48.66/bbl.

Mid-Atlantic and Marcellus quotes gained as ISOs forecast large increases in power demand and next-day power prices rose. New York ISO forecast that peak load Tuesday of 17,536 MW would rise to 20,199 MW Wednesday and 22,581 MW Thursday. PJM Interconnection predicted that peak load Tuesday of 31,595 MW would jump to 38,840 MW Wednesday and 46,685 MW Thursday.

Gas bound for New York City on Transco Zone 6 gained 22 cents to $3.11, and gas priced at the Tetco M-3 Delivery point rose 3 cents to $2.88.

Marcellus points were also firm. Gas on Dominion South was flat at $2.80, and deliveries to Tennessee Zone 4 Marcellus were quoted 6 cents higher at $2.72. Gas on Transco Leidy added 4 cents to $2.79.

Next-day spot power prices also rose. Intercontinental Exchange reported on-peak power at ISO New England's Massachusetts Hub rose $5.53 to $39.76/MWh and peak power at the PJM West Terminal added $11.12 to $48.07/MWh.

Other major market centers were lower. Gas at the Chicago Citygate fell 2 cents to $3.06, and deliveries to the Henry Hub changed hands 4 cents lower at $3.23. Gas on El Paso Permian shed 11 cents to $2.74.

Out west, parcels at Opal dropped 9 cents to $2.81, and gas priced at the PG&E Citygate fell 9 cents to as well to $3.41.

June futures opened about 4 cents lower Tuesday morning at $3.31 and kept trending lower as weather forecasts offered little in the way of price guidance.

The weather picture is mixed, with modest changes in projected heating and cooling load near term. "[Tuesday's] six-10 day period forecast is a little cooler than yesterday's forecast over the eastern half of the CONUS but warmer over portions of the West," said WSI Corp. in its Tuesday morning report to clients. "GWHDDs are up 1.1 to 12.5 for the period. PWCDDs are down 0.2 to 20.9.

"The track and timing of low pressure offers risks in either direction over the central and eastern U.S. late the period. The GFS offers a cooler risk over the Midcontinent. The West Coast and Northwest have minor warm risks."

Tom Saal, vice president of FCStone Latin America LLC in Miami, in his work with Market Profile said to expect the market to test Monday's value area at $3.367 to $3.349 before moving on and testing $3.425 to $3.399 or $3.243 to $3.213. He was not sure in which order the latter two value areas would be tested.

Traders are not committed to a market position at this time. "This choppy price action is likely to continue through the balance of this month when early summer weather forecasts will evolve as the decider of near-term price direction," said Jim Ritterbusch of Ritterbusch and Associates in a Tuesday morning report to clients.

"But for now, short-term trends are tilted higher and should be respected, despite a continued significant storage overhang. Dynamics drive near-term price swings, and we feel that the ongoing narrowing in the surplus could keep this short-term bull market alive unless Thursday's storage report offers a bearish shocker, such as an injection of more than about 70 Bcf. We remain sidelined after again getting pushed off of the short side with another small loss. We will await the EIA report later this week before reviewing our near-term trading strategies."

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