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NatGas Markets Spooked By Weather, Return Of Pipeline Capacity; Cash, Futures Race Each Other Lower

There were a lot more tricks than treats handed out in Tuesday trading as both physical and financial markets seemed stuck in reverse.

In physical trading, sharp losses in Appalachia and the Northeast tugged prices lower, but hefty losses were also noted in the Midcontinent, Midwest, and West Texas. The NGI National Spot Gas Average plunged 22 cents to $2.51.

Futures bulls hardly did much better as funds and managed accounts piled on the short side as the technical condition of the market deteriorated. At the close December had fallen 7.0 cents to $2.896 and January fell 7.4 cents to $3.026. December crude oil gained 23 cents to $54.38/bbl.

Northeast locations posted losses of $1 or more as pipeline congestion eased. "Starting Nov. 1 Algonquin mainline compressors will return to full capacity," industry consultant Genscape said in a report. Stony point will return capacity of 1.113 Bcf/d, and Southeast will be at full throttle with 1.146 Bcf/d. This concludes the five-month maintenance for construction of the Connecticut facilities involved in the Atlantic Bridge Expansion Project, Genscape said.

Deliveries to Algonquin Citygate skidded $1.16 to $2.07 and gas on Dominion South shed 30 cents to $1.23. Deliveries to Tetco M-3 fell $1.37 to $1.26 and gas on its way to New York City via Transco Zone 6 gave up 30 cents to $2.64.

Forecast warmer temperatures by midweek kept prices under pressure as well. AccuWeather.com reported New York City's Tuesday high of 57 degrees would ease to 55 Wednesday before rising Thursday to 69, 11 degrees above normal. Philadelphia's Tuesday max of 59 was seen sliding to 58 Wednesday before jumping to 72 Thursday, 10 degrees above normal.

The National Weather Service (NWS) forecasts sharply reduced heating loads. For the week ended Nov. 4 NWS says New England will see just 93 heating degree days (HDD) or 46 fewer than normal. New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania are expected to "bask" in 87 HDD or 37 less than its seasonal norm.

Other market centers fell as well. Gas at the Chicago Citygate retreated 27 cents to $2.78 and deliveries to the Henry Hub were quoted a dime lower at $2.77. Gas on El Paso Permian dropped 19 cents to $2.42 and gas on Panhandle Eastern changed hands 22 cents lower at $2.47.

Kern River came in at $2.59, down 11 cents and Kern Delivery was quoted at $2.70, lower by 15 cents. SoCal Citygate fell 6 cents to $3.04 and gas priced at the SoCal Border Average shed 7 cents to $2.78.

Weather forecasts, although cooler, were not enough to entice futures buyers. "The current six-to-10 day forecast is cooler than [Monday's] forecast over the eastern half of the” continental United States, “aided by the day shift," said WSI Corp. in its morning report to clients. "The western U.S. is warmer.” Gas-weighted HDDs “are +2.5 to 69.5, which are still 11.8 below average.”

WSI cautioned that "the forecast could sway in either direction, this in part depends on the exact timing and details of a cold front. The south-central and eastern U.S. have minor warmer risks ahead of the front, but there are some cooler risks behind the front. The interior West and north-central U.S. have a warmer risk late."

Traders are taking a wait-and-see approach to the market for now and are waiting for warm weather to play out  "The primary focus remains on some mild temperature forecasts that are beginning to extend out to about the middle of November," said Jim Ritterbusch of Ritterbusch and Associates in closing comments Tuesday.

"As HDDs remain downsized, the market appears to be pricing in a lack of any additional expansion in the supply deficit. Thursday's” Energy Information Administration (EIA) “report will likely post an injection proximate to the five-year averages that would leave the overhang modest at around 45 Bcf. And given the mild weather views that extend across Texas and the eastern half of the U.S., a peak in storage will likely develop later than is usually the case.

"Meanwhile, the money managers continue to add to existing short holdings with the benefit of today's additional chart deterioration. Although we still view Friday's November contract expiration at the $2.75 level as a bit out of reach for the December futures, a test of this support could develop by week's end if the above normal temperature forecasts are extended amidst a bearish surprise out of the EIA. However, we are maintaining a sideline stance for now and would caution against any attempts to pick a bottom to this market."

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