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Northeast Losses Offset Broader Market Gains; NatGas Futures Add 7 Cents

Prices eased for weekend and Monday physical natural gas deliveries, with weather-driven moderation at Northeast, Southeast, and Appalachia points staving off strong pricing in Texas, the Midwest, and Louisiana. The NGI National Spot Gas Average lost two cents to $2.94.

Although Midwest temperatures over the weekend and into Monday were expected to just make it to seasonal norms, New England temperatures were forecast to plunge as much as 25 degrees Saturday. Futures traders would have none of the sluggish cash market and sent quotes marching higher. At the close June had risen 7.4 cents to $3.256 and July had gained 7.3 cents to $3.353. The about-to-expire June crude oil rose 98 cents to $50.33/bbl, the first settlement of spot crude oil over $50 in a month.

Tumbling temperatures pulled the plug on eastern next-day quotes and sent the overall average into negative territory. AccuWeather.com forecast that Friday's high in Boston of 89 degrees would plunge to 64 by Saturday and fall further to 58 by Monday, 9 degrees below normal. New York City's 91 high Friday is expected to drop to 69 Saturday and ease to 68 by Monday, 4 degrees below normal. In the Midwest temperatures were forecast to trend higher. Chicago's high Friday of 53 was seen advancing to 69 by Saturday and 71 by Monday, the seasonal average.

Gas at the Algonquin Citygate skidded 31 cents to $2.99 and deliveries to Iroquois Waddington shed 4 cents to $3.16. Gas on Tennessee Zone 6 200 L fell 23 cents $2.96.

Gas at Marcellus points weakened as well. Dominion South was quoted at $2.71, down 3 cents and gas on Tennessee Zone 4 Marcellus changed hands 14 cents lower at $2.54. Gas on Transco Leidy came in 8 cents lower at $2.64.

Other market points firmed. Gas at the Chicago Citygate rose 4 cents to $3.04 but gas at the Henry Hub dropped 4 cents to $3.09. Parcels on Northern Natural Demarcation added 2 cents to $2.88 and gas on El Paso Permian tacked on 2 cents to $2.69. Deliveries to Opal were quoted 3 cents higher at $2.77.

Quotes in California rose as CAISO gas-fired generation is showing one of its first month-over-month increases in a while due to warm weather lifting loads and lack of nuclear generation.

Gas priced at the PG&E Citygate rose two cents to $3.35 and gas at the SoCal Citygate added 8 cents to $3.21. Packages priced at the SoCal Border Average were quoted 2 cents higher at $2.82.

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"During the past five-years, May gas burns typically increase just 1% from April, but presently are running 16% above last month, with CAISO-reported daily average hourly generation from gas up 651 MWh/d," wrote industry consultant Genscape in a report. "The gains are a product of an early heat wave lifting loads combined with Diablo Canyon nuclear going offline towards the end of April for refueling and maintenance. "

Futures opened 3 cents higher Friday morning at $3.21 as traders sensed a buying opportunity following Thursday's bearish Energy Information Administration (EIA) storage report.

Following the less than expected decline Thursday after the release of a bearish (+68 Bcf) inventory build, traders are thinking bulls were waiting in the wings ready to initiate buying. "Otherwise, we saw no significant change today in weather forecasts or other fundamental inputs to drive buying," Jim Ritterbusch of Ritterbusch and Associates said in closing comments Thursday.

"This looks like a wide-swinging trade capable of frustrating both the bulls and the bears. Although the supply surplus fell less than expected by only around 18 Bcf per today's data, the market is likely pricing in a larger contraction in the surplus against averages within next week's EIA data. We are still sidelined from a trading perspective, but we also feel that the 25-cent price plunge seen this week is underscoring an amply supplied market with which to begin the CDD [cooling degree day] cycle. We are leaving a downside target of $3.05 on the table for now while we are also allowing for a price recovery back to around the 3.30 area."

During the weekend, gas buyers over the ERCOT power pool will have plenty of challenges with regard to renewable offsets. "A wet and stormy pattern will support a cooling trend, and warm and humid conditions in combination with a slow-moving storm system anticipated to traverse the central U.S. will lead to rounds of locally heavy showers and strong thunderstorms during the next two days," said WSI Corp. in its Friday morning report to clients. "Large hail, damaging winds and tornadoes are risks. Max temps will range in the upper 70s, 80s to near 90. Two additional disturbances will keep the chance of rain and storms in the forecast during Sunday into early Tuesday morning.

"The first storm system will support elevated wind gen [Friday] into early Saturday morning. Output is forecast to peak upward of 8-11 GW. Variable wind gen is expected during Sunday-Monday. A northwest wind should provide a spike of output during Tuesday. Variable cloud cover will impede total solar gen on a daily basis."

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