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CA Heat Lifts NatGas Cash; Harvey Impact Mixed as September Expires Firm

Physical natural gas for delivery Wednesday on average gained, but the next-day market was highly skewed. Most points were down a few cents and Texas, Louisiana, the Midcontinent and Midwest on average all posted losses. The NGI National Spot Gas Average, however, rose 1 cent to $2.70, primarily on the backs of outsized gains in southern California prompted by an ongoing heat wave.

Tropical Storm Harvey continues to grind away on the Texas Gulf Coast, and traders continue to mull whether demand losses will be offset by reduced production. Futures traders appeared to vote for a balanced market for the time being with the expired September contract rising 3.6 cents to $2.961 and October adding 2.2 cents to $2.983. October crude oil shed 13 cents to $46.44/bbl.

Early bidweek indications show some modest declines occurring in regional prices, according to NGI’s Bidweek Alert, but the declines could be indicative of overall market weakness rather than Harvey-related pressure.

Download NGI's Bidweek Alert xls, with the latest First of Month pricing, updated each bidweek day.

In its 4 p.m. CDT report the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said Harvey was located about 75 miles southwest of Cameron, LA, and was holding winds of 50 mph. Harvey was moving toward the north-northeast near 6 mph, and this general motion was expected to continue Tuesday night and Wednesday. On the forecast track, the broad circulation center of Harvey was expected to move inland over the northwestern Gulf Coast within the tropical storm warning area by early Wednesday, NHC warned.

Weatherunderground.com reported that "the center of Harvey edged out over the Gulf of Mexico late [Tuesday] morning, and satellite images and radar loops show that Harvey is responding by building new intense thunderstorms near its center. These thunderstorms will bring renewed rounds of torrential rains to the Houston area through at least Wednesday morning. Houston got a brief reprieve on Monday morning from the heavy rains that have submerged the city, when a slot of dry air to the west of Harvey rotated into the core of the storm and stifled the heavy rains over Southeast Texas.

"Harvey's heaviest rains fell instead near the Louisiana/Texas border, where an intense band of heavy thunderstorms fed by Gulf moisture brought 12-hour rainfall amounts in excess of 10 inches to three weather stations near Beaumont, Texas. Rainfall amounts in western and central Louisiana of 4-8 inches were common, in the 12-hour period from midnight to noon Monday."

Barclays Capital Analysts on Tuesday posited that future Gulf Coast storms are likely to be ‘increasingly bearish’ for U.S. natural gas markets.

However, traders see the market in balance for the moment with the eventual effects of Harvey prompting a bullish market response. "Although the expiring September contract displayed a late session show of strength on last minute short covering, this market continues to exhibit negligible impact from Harvey as offsets between reduced production and curtailed demand remain roughly equivalent," said Jim Ritterbusch in closing comments Tuesday.

"As a result, the continued tight trading range similar to today's approximate 6 cent parameters could prove sustainable as October achieves prompt month status. Short term weather forecasts are maintaining a bearish tilt with below normal temperature expectations still covering a broad swath of the nation's mid-section. Today's expiration of the September contract didn't provide any pricing clues despite the late up-spike. The expected modest premium for October values likely won't prove attractive to either commercials or speculators from either side of the market.

"[W]e still see the effects from the storm shaking out in a bullish direction as we still advise purchases of October futures on pullbacks to below the $2.95 level. We are raising our stop protection to the $2.87 level while we still view our $3.14 target as realistic by the end of next week."

The physical market was pulled higher by the ongoing heat wave in southern California. Weatherunderground.com forecast that Los Angeles' high Tuesday of 92 would climb to 95 Wednesday and hold Thursday, 10 degrees above normal. San Diego's 81 high Tuesday was seen rising to 85 Wednesday and 86 Thursday, 9 degrees above normal.

Gas at the SoCal Citygate jumped 91 cents to $4.79 and deliveries priced at the SoCal Border Average vaulted 63 cents to $4.13. Gas on El Paso S Mainline rose 81 cents to $4.72, and packages on Kern Delivery soared $1.02 to $4.66.

The National Weather Service in Los Angeles said, "An extended heat wave with widespread triple digit temperatures will continue through this week. Late night and early morning dense fog is possible along the coast over the next several days as a shallow marine layer remains in place. Isolated showers and thunderstorms could impact the mountains and desert areas into late week.”

Other points barely moved. Gas at the Algonquin Citygate was up 3 cents to $2.14 and deliveries to Tetco M-3 were unchanged at $1.70. Gas on Dominion South was quoted at $1.70, up 2 cents, and gas bound for New York City on Transco Zone 6 was flat at $1.88.

Deliveries to the Chicago Citygate slumped 4 cents to $2.81 and gas at the Henry Hub shed 4 cents as well to $2.88. Deliveries to Opal came in 8 cents lower at $2.74, and gas at the Cheyenne Hub fell 3 cents to $2.61.

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