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Eastern Strength Lifts NatGas Cash, But Futures Seen Floundering; October Gives Up 2 Cents

Physical natural gas for Wednesday delivery on average managed to climb in Tuesday's trading as stout double-digit gains in New England and the East managed to overcome setbacks in West Texas, the Rockies and California. Most points outside of the Northeast, Appalachia, and the West Coast managed gains of a few pennies, and the NGI National Spot Gas Average rose 4 cents to $2.84.

Futures bulls had a hard time building on Monday's momentum and at settlement October had dropped 2.4 cents to $3.122, and November lost 2.0 cents to $3.175. October crude oil shed 43 cents to $49.48/bbl.

Physical gas prices may continue firm as near-term weather outlooks call for late-summer heat. "Summer warmth will not let go of its grip on the central and eastern United States through the week,” said AccuWeather.com meteorologist Renee Duff. "Temperatures will generally average 5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit above normal from the central Plains to the Ohio Valley and interior Northeast. Some areas of the Central states will soar to as high as 15 degrees above late-September normals.

"Humidity will be highest across the Central states and more reminiscent of midsummer levels. [Heat Indexes] will be pushed into the 90s for several afternoons this week in St. Louis, Nashville and Little Rock, Arkansas." 

The warm pattern will likely become even more amplified late this week and into the weekend, allowing temperatures to soar even higher across the Midwest and Northeast, according to AccuWeather.com's Max Vido.

"In the Midwest, 90s will be in play. Across the interior Northeast, highs in the 80s will become more widespread through the week. However, humidity will lower through the week as dry air from Canada is funneled into the region."

Gas at the Algonquin Citygate added another 36 cents from its 50-plus cent advance Monday to $2.47, and deliveries to New York City on Transco Zone 6 gained 9 cents to $3.17. Parcels on Tetco M-3 added 25 cents to $1.80 and gas on Dominion South changed hands 25 cents higher at $1.70.

At the Chicago Citygate deliveries were seen at $3.03, up 2 cents and gas at the Henry Hub was quoted at $3.14, up 4 cents. Gas on El Paso Permian shed 6 cents to $2.59, and parcels at Northern Natural Demarcation came down a penny to $2.88.

Just a few weeks ago California was in the midst of a heat wave, and on Sept. 1 CAISO forecast peak load would surpass the record 50,270 MW recorded during a 2006 summer heat storm. That didn't happen, and the 50,270 MW record still stands.

Mild temperatures on the West Coast have prompted plunging power loads and weak next-day gas.

Kern Delivery fell 4 cents to $2.78 and gas at the PG&E Citygate shed 3 cents to $3.36. Gas at the SoCal Citygate fell 13 cents to $3.10 and deliveries priced at the SoCal Border Average were down a penny to $2.88.

AccuWeather.com forecast Los Angeles' Tuesday high of 77 would rise to 78 Wednesday before weakening to 74 Thursday, 9 degrees below normal. San Francisco's high of 71 Tuesday was seen falling to 69 Wednesday and Thursday, a degree below the seasonal norm.

CAISO forecast Tuesday's peak load at 31,323 MW and Wednesday at 31,601 MW.

Supportive weather aside, futures traders are looking to go short. "Although this market saw limited upside follow through from [Monday's] 4% advance, the major part of yesterday's rally was maintained with the help of continued supportive temperature views," said Jim Ritterbusch in closing comments Tuesday.

"But with the weather factor shifting more toward a neutral interpretation later next week, we remain skeptical of the viability of this price advance. But, for now, we will concede to a bullish chart picture in which significant resistance fails to develop until about the $3.25 area.

"Looking ahead to [Wednesday's] trade, we would expect a further consolidation largely within today's range prior to Thursday's Energy Information Administration release that could spur some selling if our storage guesstimate is realized. All in all, we are maintaining a sideline stance for now but may look to approach the short side later this week should the eight- to 14-day temperature views slip further away from slightly above normal trends."

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