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West Coast NatGas Leads Market Higher; Futures Add 7 Cents Of Their Own

Physical natural gas for Tuesday delivery bounded higher in Monday's trading, aided and abetted by a strong screen, pervasive above normal heat on the West Coast and increased seasonal exports to Mexico. Strongest advances were seen in market points serving California and West Coast points, and the NGI National Spot Gas Average added 7 cents to $3.01.

Futures were able to work towards the upper limits of the recent trading range, and at the close June had gained another 7.4 cents to $3.330 and July had risen 7.1 cents to $3.424. June crude oil expired at $50.73, up 40 cents.

West Texas and California points advanced well above the day's average gain as significantly above normal temperatures were forecast from Arizona to Oregon. AccuWeather.com forecast that the high Monday in Phoenix of 104 degrees would hold Tuesday and reach 106 Wednesday, 9 degrees above average. Los Angeles' Monday peak of 85 was expected to ease to 83 Tuesday before slipping to 74 Wednesday, 1 degree below normal. Portland, OR was forecast to see a high Monday of 90 ease to 82 Tuesday and drop to 64 Wednesday, 4 degrees below normal.

Gas on El Paso Permian jumped 15 cents to $2.84 and deliveries to Transwestern gained 14 cents to $2.85. Parcels on El Paso S Mainline came in 13 cents higher at $2.97.

Deliveries to the PG&E Citygate rose 11 cents to $3.46 and gas at the SoCal Citygate was quoted 11 cents higher at $3.32. Gas priced at the SoCal Border Average added 14 cents to $2.96.

Rocky Mountain points also rose. Gas at the Cheyenne Hub rose 11 cents to $2.86, and Kern River added 11 cents to $2.87. Gas at Opal changed hands 11 cents higher at $2.88.

"You are using natural gas to balance the [western] power grid, and I don't know if it's a big boost, but it's the most demand for natural gas we have seen in a long time," said Jeff Richter, principal with EnergyGPS, a Portland, OR-based energy and consulting firm.

Next-day power prices and loads also helped boost spot gas pricing. Intercontinental Exchange reported that on-peak Tuesday power at the NP-15 delivery point rose $26.31 to $52.36/MWh and deliveries to SP-15 were higher by $1.73 to $45.16/MWh.

CAISO predicted Monday's peak load of 36,004 MW would reach 36,155 MW Tuesday.

Gains at other market points were more benign. At the Algonquin Citygate next-day deliveries rose a penny to $3.00 and gas on Dominion South rose 3 cents to $2.74. Gas bound for New York City on Transco Zone 6 added 18 cents to $2.90.

Gas at the Chicago Citygate added 8 cents to $3.13 and gas on Panhandle Eastern rose 12 cents to $2.87. Gas at the Henry Hub gained 12 cents to $3.21.

[Subscriber Notice Regarding NGI’s Market-Leading Natural Gas Price Indexes]

Futures opened 5 cents higher Monday morning at $3.31 as traders digested a variable weather forecast and considered short hedges. Overnight oil markets were also strong.

Overnight weather model runs featured a mix of factors. "Changes over the weekend were mixed in this period, trending warmer along the East Coast and cooler in the Midcontinent," said MDA Weather Services in a Monday morning report to clients. "The Northwest, however, is warmer versus both the Friday and Sunday reports. The forecast favors above normal temperatures remaining fairly steady in coverage in the Pacific Northwest while variability is the story for the Midcontinent.

"Near and slightly above normal temperatures are favored along the East Coast. Within the atmospheric background state is an MJO [Madden Julian Oscillation]-like feature out of phase four and propagating toward phase five, and associated -EPO [Eastern Pacific Oscillation] features.

"Features associated with the -EPO could leave the Midwest cooler as the Euro projects. GFS keeps the MJO focused in phases two-three, having confidence low in the forcing."

In a weekly note to clients Mike DeVooght of DEVO Capital Management said, "Natural gas settled lower this week, giving back all of last weeks gains. Storage numbers came in line with expectations, but still smaller builds than normal, for this time of year. Natural gas could make another run if we get a warmer than normal summer. If natural gas does rally, we would use it as an opportunity to add to current hedge positions.

"On a trading basis, continue to add to producer hedges on natural gas rallies above $3.50 on the 12-month forward strip. Call for pricing and recommendations."

Inasmuch as the June contract is due to expire next week, market technicians are turning their attention to the July contract. "If there is still to be a final leg up in this year’s winter to spring rally then it is very likely that July will be spot when natgas peaks," said Walter Zimmermann, vice president at United ICAP. Zimmermann contends bulls need to advance the market at least another 17 cents before the lows of mid-April are taken out.

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