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NatGas Cash Surges While July Futures Languish Under $3

Physical natural gas prices for Tuesday delivery soared in Monday's trading with not one point followed by NGI falling into the red. Dominating the gains were the Northeast, West Texas and California, and the NGI National Spot Gas Average jumped 16 cents to $2.69.

With June bidweek prices as much as 25 cents higher, the soft next-day market may have proven too much of a temptation. In the futures arena, however, there was little temptation and the traders surveying the demand and weather landscape saw no impetus to initiate purchases.

At the close July had fallen 1.7 cents to $2.982, and August was off 1.7 cents as well to $3.024. July crude oil eased 26 cents to $47.40.

One school of thought to explain the soaring cash quotes was coal-to-gas switching.

"Prices may have recovered from last week's poor storage report, and some of the components here could have been coal-to-gas switching which could be driving some of these increases in prices," said an analyst with industry consultant Genscape Inc.

Gas at the Algonquin Citygate roared ahead 60 cents to $2.53, and deliveries to Iroquois Waddington gained 72 cents to $2.66. Packages on Tennessee Zone 6 200 L added a hefty 46 cents to $2.45.

Gas priced on Tetco M-3 Delivery rose 13 cents to $2.01, and gas bound for New York City via Transco Zone 6 added 27 cents to $2.10.

At the Chicago Citygate next-day deliveries came in at $2.84, up 14 cents, and gas on Dominion South changed hands at $1.98, up 7 cents. At the Henry Hub, packages were quoted up 7 cents to $2.91 while gas on El Paso Permian rose 22 cents to $2.60.

At Northern Natural Demarcation gas surged 16 cents to $2.71, and gas at Opal was quoted at $2.61, up 19 cents. PG&E Citygate deliveries rose 11 cents to $3.10.

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Futures traders see technical support levels holding. "Our major support levels are $2.98, $2.93, and $2.90," said Steve Blair, vice president at Rafferty Technical Research. "This market doesn't surprise me at all. Unfortunately, summer hasn't arrived. By this time of year we should be seeing more generation demand."

Futures opened 3 cents lower at $2.97 and never recovered, even though weather forecasts turned more seasonal, with above-normal temperatures seen across major energy markets.

"After a cool one- to five-day, hotter conditions spread across the eastern half during the six-to-10-day period as troughing departs the East and ridging builds in downstream of a trough in the Northwest," said MDA Weather Services in its Monday morning report. "This results in temperatures peaking at much above normal levels in the Midwest mid-period and in the East toward the end of the period.

"Models show decent pattern agreement, although the Euro remains cooler in the South where it has carried a cool bias lately. Models disagree with regard to how long the heat lingers late, with the global forecast system holding warmer anomalies than the Euro across the eastern half."

Risk managers see additional weakness and are holding to previously established short hedges.

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