At first glance it may have looked like weekend and Monday physical natural gas was held to minimal changes, but don't tell that to traders trying to do deals on Northeast pipes. Most points, however, did trade within a penny or two of unchanged, and the NGI National Spot Gas Average was down 7 cents to $2.74.
Weather expectations and pipeline outages in and around New England sent prices soaring, but gains in there could not offset weakness in Appalachia. Futures bulls suffered another round of unsupportive weather-related indignation, and at the close September had fallen 3.6 cents to $2.893, while October was off 3.6 cents to $2.930. September crude oil jumped $1.42 to $48.51/bbl.
Analyst Stephan Baden at EnergyGPS said the gains in the Northeast were both weather and pipeline related. "Demand in New England Saturday is going to be stronger than Friday which is unusual. The average temperature in Hartford and Boston are going up to 77 degrees and there are some humidity implications as well. That is expected to remain strong through next week.”
Gas at the Algonquin Citygate rose 71 cents to $3.05 and deliveries to Tennessee Zone 6 200 L gained a stout 69 cents to $3.03. Gas on Tetco M-3 Delivery added 27 cents to $2.13 and packages bound for New York City on Transco Zone 6 were quoted 29 cents higher at $2.94.
"There are also some pipeline issues as well. Algonquin traded just above Iroquois Zone 2 [Z2] so it will try to pull or keep from sending gas in that direction. That is likely a direct relation to the outage on Algonquin,” Baden said.
"This signals that the marginal molecule flowing into the AGT system has moved to Z2 and which is ultimately being fed by Canada through Waddington. Outages on the TGP system will reduce flows into the northeast which surely added some upside to the overall market however looking at the ISO New England load profile over the weekend and for Monday AGT likely would have priced to Z2 regardless. Mass Hub peak demand is expected to hit 21.7 GWs for Monday, which is 2.4 GWs stronger than Wednesday's load forecast, which drove AGT to $2.80 in cash."
Other market points weren't quite so exuberant. Gas at the Chicago Citygate added 3 cents to $2.85 and deliveries to the Henry Hub rose just a penny to $2.89. Packages on Northern Natural Demarcation fell a penny to $2.70.
Technical analysts see no convincing trend at the moment. "We are in limbo land," said Walter Zimmermann, vice president at United ICAP. "This time of year my rule of thumb is you don't want to be short natural gas after Labor Day because of the risk of a fall to winter pre-season rally.
"That said the seasonal cycle low the last few years has been migrating from late August to mid-September. The big event of the year is the fall to winter preseason rally so I can't get excited about selling into this because Labor Day is just around the corner.
"All the bulls need to keep alive the case for a decent rally into the winter is hold above $2.715. We had a recent low at $2.753 and it's not as if buying here you have to risk a whole lot. As far as the upside goes, I think by November and December we have a shot at the $3.66 to $3.68 area. As long as $2.72 holds, there is a case for $3.67 by Thanksgiving."
Weather forecasts going into the weekend, however, made it difficult to get enamored of a long natural gas position. "Once again the six to 10 day period forecast is cooler than yesterday's forecast across the southern and eastern US," said WSI Corp. in a morning report to clients. "Portions of the West and north-central US are a little warmer.” Continental United States population-weighted cooling degree days “are down 2 to 41.3, which are 5.3 below average."
WSI cautioned that "even with cooler changes during the past two days, the Plains, Midwest and Northeast have minor cooler risks. The southern states could swing in either direction depending on the amplitude of the flow, timing of the front and wet weather. The GFS offers warmer risks for Texas, but the ECMWF [European model] is cooler."