With no guidance coming from Tuesday's neutral screen action, cash market traders were left to their own devices on Wednesday. Some Midwest averages and almost all western averages continued Tuesday's run higher with additions of a few pennies to a little more than 15 cents, while the rest of the country saw small pullbacks of up to a nickel.
Traders on Thursday should have a little more to work with as the October futures contract dropped 5.4 cents during Wednesday's regular session to close at $3.762. According to IntercontinentalExchange (ICE) data, front-month futures and the Henry Hub cash average continue to stay close to one another. ICE said Henry Hub gas traded Wednesday for Thursday delivery averaged $3.73, down more than 6 cents from the previous day.
The main strength in prices Wednesday emanated from the western half of the United States. All points covered by NGI in both the Rockies and in California posted gains, led by a nearly 25-cent gain at the White River Hub. With the exception of Questar Gas Pipeline, Wednesday marked the first time since Aug. 19 that all price points in the Rockies traded above $3/MMBtu.
The strength, at least in California, was sparked by the arrival of some warmer-than-normal temperatures. "We're seeing a couple of days of heat out here, so we're also seeing natural gas demand increase a bit," said a West Coast utility trader. "Higher than normal temps, even if it is just a few days worth, will always boost prices."
Prices in the Midcontinent/Midwest were mixed, with gas closer to the wellhead posting gains, while that delivered to markets falling by up to a nickel. All pipes in the Midcontinent were up on the day, led by a 13-cent gain into Panhandle Eastern. Meanwhile, deliveries into MichCon and Consumers Energy were down one and two cents, respectively, and gas sold into the Chicago market fell by 4 cents.
The cash market appears as if it will continue to ignore hurricane season. Despite the recent ramp-up in activity in the tropics, conditions continue to direct storms up the Eastern Seaboard and away from Gulf of Mexico energy infrastructure. Currently, the National Hurricane Center is monitoring three Atlantic systems, Category Four Hurricane Earl, Tropical Storm Fiona and Tropical Storm Gaston.
While Earl is targeting a sideswipe of the East Coast later this week and Fiona is expected to follow a somewhat similar course, the path of Gaston remains unclear. The system is still more than 1,600 miles east of the Lesser Antilles.
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