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Physical NatGas, Futures Post Solid Gains; July Adds A Dime

Physical natural gas for delivery Tuesday regained the losses suffered Friday in pre-weekend trading. Setbacks at Northeast points were no match for broad gains throughout the gas patch, from the Rockies and California to the Midcontinent and Midwest to Appalachia and the Southeast. The NGI National Spot Gas Average rose 8 cents to $2.67.

Moderating weather in the Northeast kept pricing on the defensive, but spasms of heat continued to linger throughout the Southwest and Midwest. Futures traders got the close over $3 they were looking for as forecasters expected hot temperatures to engulf most of the country next week. At the close July had added 9.8 cents to $3.027 and August had added 9.8 cents as well to $3.049. August crude oil posted its 3rd straight gain adding 37 cents to $43.38/bbl.

Mild temperature forecasts kept eastern points on the defensive. AccuWeather.com forecast that Boston's Monday high of 77 degrees would hold Tuesday and inch higher Wednesday to 79, the normal high. New York City's high Monday of 78 was seen holding steady as well and creeping up to 79 by Wednesday, 3 degrees below normal.

Gas at the Algonquin Citygate skidded 20 cents to $2.17 and deliveries to Iroquois Waddington shed 41 cents to $2.22. Gas on Tennessee Zone 6 200 L fell 26 cents to $2.13.

Gas on Tetco M-3 Delivery rose 7 cents to $1.88 and packages headed to New York City on Transco Zone 6 fell 8 cents to $2.12.

AccuWeather.com meteorologist Alex Sosnowski said the cooler weather across the north-central United States "will give way to a resurgence of heat, steamy air and severe weather by midweek. As the high pressure responsible for ushering in the unseasonably cool air shifts eastward, the door will open for warmer and more humid air to surge northward on Tuesday.

"Temperatures across the northern Plains on Tuesday are expected to soar 15 to 30 degrees above Saturday's highs. After being held to the middle 60s on Saturday in Bismarck, North Dakota, temperatures will rise to near 90 on Tuesday. Higher humidity will accompany the heat surge, further setting the stage for severe weather to erupt as a cold front dives into the northern Plains."

Other market points posted solid gains. Gas at the Chicago Citygate rose 9 cents to $2.78 and gas at the Henry Hub rose 12 cents to $2.98. Deliveries to Dominion South rose 6 cents to $1.82.

Gas on El Paso Permian was quoted 13 cents higher at $2.67 and packages on Panhandle Eastern rose 11 cents to $2.66. Gas priced at Opal changed hands a dime higher at $2.65 and gas at the SoCal Border Average was seen a dime higher as well to $2.76.

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July opened trading 5 cents higher Monday morning at $2.98 as traders studied longer-directed weather forecasts. Overnight oil markets rose.

Natgasweather.com in its morning report to clients said it was anticipating the timeline of major features to impact the United States the next few weeks to remain intact. "Most importantly, the data locked on to a large-scale very warm to hot ridge of high pressure that will dominate much of the country July 5-8 where widespread highs of upper 80s to 100s would be expected to drive the strongest natural gas demand observed so far this season. Until then, cool conditions remain in the wake of a weather system and associated cool front that swept across the central and eastern United States this past weekend, including deep into the Southeast."

Risk managers are booking gains on short spec positions. "Natural gas settled lower across the board. The market broke sharply on Monday, but when key support ($2.80-$2.90) held, gas traded in a tight range for the balance of the week," said Mike DeVooght, president of DEVO Capital in a weekly note to clients. DeVooght noted that the weekly storage number was considered negative because of a larger than anticipated injection, but failed to be a market mover. Warmer weather in the west could help support western gas basis, but cooler temperatures in the east and south could continue to pressure NYMEX natural gas.

"On a trading basis, we have been looking for gas to test to the $2.80-$2.90 level. Now that we have done so, there is a good chance of a technical rally. We are not bullish, but would not be surprised to see a rally back to the $3.10-$3.20 level. If gas were to break the $2.80 level, the next support is $2.10. At this time, we would book profits on short speculative positions and stand aside. For hedgers, we will maintain current positions."

Longer term traders are optimistic. "Hands down the market is going higher," said John Woods, president of J.J. Woods and Associates in New York.

"We are not even into the season yet, and we came down to some serious support at $2.88 to $2.87, and you just don't bail out on a season this early.

"I like the settlement over $3 and that is going to give us some momentum and there is also a [technical] gap that needs to be filled at about $3.07 from a week or so ago.

"You are going to get that July and August weather. I have been a big bull, and why would you sell $2.90 gas? What's your risk-reward, $2.50 to $2.45? There is a lot of gas out there, but you are starting to see some weather."

Adding to the bullish flavor to the market, natural gas drilling rigs are easing out of the market. According to Baker Hughes Inc. (BHI) rig count data released Friday, three U.S. natural gas rigs packed up for the week. That left the United States to finish at 941 rigs total (758 oil, 183 gas), up eight for the week and 520 above the year-ago tally. Canada added 11 rigs for the week, seven oil and four gas.

Crude oil producers seem undeterred by the recent collapse in crude oil quotes. U.S. drillers for the week ended June 23 added 11 oil-directed rigs.

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