It would seem that a day with forecast lows in single digits and the teens in many parts of Western Canada and the northern half of the U.S., accompanied by mercury levels due to bottom out around freezing in northerly reaches of the South, should be sufficient to cause rising spot gas prices. But it wasn't so Wednesday.
Instead, a four-day holiday weekend that would soak up more industrial demand than usual and expectations of frigid conditions starting to retreat before the end of the holiday period kept most of the market soft Wednesday. A dip of 0.7 cent in prompt-month futures Tuesday was a negligible factor.
Some Northeast points, particularly those serving the New England market, and a few locations in other areas managed flat to about 40 cents higher showings. But the Northeast was a bit weaker than a day earlier as Texas Eastern M-3 and both of Transco's Zone 6 pools recorded drops.
Otherwise the market behaved much as it had on Tuesday, with most locations outside the Northeast seeing declines ranging from a couple of pennies to about 15 cents.
Because of the holiday-induced noon EST Wednesday release of the Energy Information Administration's storage report for the week ending Nov. 19, there was essentially no cash market impact (trading there having already finished for all practical purposes) and very little late response at Nymex. The report of a 6 Bcf pull was bullish in comparison with prior estimates covering 6 Bcf higher to 6 Bcf lower. Consensus expectations had called for unchanged or a small withdrawal.
Expiring December futures had been in the red prior to the report, but afterward climbed to close virtually unchanged (see related story).
The official 2010 Atlantic hurricane season, which featured a tremendous amount of activity but virtually no substantive impact to Gulf of Mexico production, is expected to end quietly Tuesday.
Despite widespread cold weather with some snow in the first half of the long weekend, the National Weather Service (NWS) expects significant change by the time the new week arrives. Its forecast for Nov. 29-Dec. 3 calls for above-normal temperatures to have concentrated in the Northeast, spreading as far as some sections of the South Atlantic and eastern Midwest states. The Pacific Coast was excluded from the area where NWS predicted below-normal readings throughout the rest of the West, extending as far eastward as Iowa and Wisconsin.
Algonquin citygate numbers rose about 35 cents on IntercontinentalExchange (ICE), and the online trading platform volumes at the point jumped from 89,700 MMBtu Tuesday to 137,400 MMBtu Wednesday.
At Katy, where mild weather would remain in place through at least Thursday and prices fell about a nickel, ICE recorded a large decline of more than 160,000 MMBtu to 401,700 MMBtu Wednesday. On the other hand, the Chicago citygate took a bigger price hit of about a dime, yet its ICE volumes rose from 847,800 MMBtu to 946,300 MMBtu.
As it often is, day-before-Thanksgiving trading was rather perfunctory, with a "get in and get out quickly" mood dominant, said a Gulf Coast producer. He expected few if any trading counterparties to be left in their offices for long after lunch.
Wednesday's trading was not much different from that on Tuesday. The Northeast still seemed to be the only source of major heating demand, and even there price gains were smaller that on the previous day, he said.
The producer said he wasn't surprised to not see any new bidweek business getting done. Due to so many pre-holiday trader absences, he didn't think any of the ones that were on duty felt it worthwhile to attempt any new baseload deals for next month. There will be some December business left to be completed after the weekend, but it will be "scraps," he said, adding that most bidweek transactions had already been completed.
Although she agreed with the producer that there might be a few December deals left to complete Monday and Tuesday, a Texas-based trader perceived that for all practical purposes bidweek had wrapped up by the end of last Tuesday. She said she "didn't get a single call" for December gas Wednesday.
There's not much trading to do on the day before a holiday, she continued, but there was still plenty of paperwork to finish before leaving for Thanksgiving. She said she did all December baseload sales, as well as cash deals for the holiday weekend, at index flat.
December baseload prices on ICE were up a couple of cents from Monday to Tuesday at the PG&E citygate, but the trading platform found Chicago citygates falling by a near-identical amount on the second official day of bidweek.
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