Something that the market had seen almost none of for quite a long time -- higher prices across the board -- occurred Wednesday.
As the first trading of the new year commenced, virtually everyone had agreed that very cold weather through the last half of January could very well put at least a small strain on abundant storage or generate higher prices. But by the middle of last week doubts were growing about the accuracy of such predictions. Thus, except for spikes in the Northeast, most of the market was soft while ignoring the prevalence of snow and frigid temperatures in many area.
But new model runs apparently signaled to traders, "Yes, get ready to shiver for the rest of the month." The result was a a penny gain at Westcoast Station 2 Wednesday, with other gains running from about a nickel to the $8.15 area. The Florida citygate got the largest increase by far as Florida Gas Transmission's continuation of an Overage Alert Day led at least one buyer to pay as much as $19 for gas delivered in the state.
Northeast citygates again realized all the other triple-digit spikes, with Transco Zone 6's New York pool topping out at $15.25 and averaging about $13.60.
The February futures uptick of a nickel will provide further screen support for Thursday's cash market (see related story).
Nearly all of the remaining OFOs or other imbalance-avoidance restrictions were on pipes in the East or central years. With milder temperatures returning in previously freezing sections of the West, CIG lifted a Strained Operating Condition and El Paso said its system had normal linepack again.
CIG, which as recently as last Friday had traded at a premium of 8 cents to Henry, has seen the market shift enough -- as the Gulf Coast got significantly colder while a warming trend developed in the Rockies -- that the hub was about 20 cents above CIG Wednesday, according to IntercontinentalExchange (ICE). Despite Henry quotes rising nearly 15 cents, its ICE volumes dipped from 736,100 MMBtu Tuesday to 705,200 MMBtu Wednesday. Meanwhile, CIG moved about a nickel higher on ICE while its volumes fell from 88,300 MMBtu to 75,000 MMBtu.
Northern Natural Gas expected to stay close to its normal system-weighted temperature of 14 degrees from Wednesday through Friday, but a bulletin board posting projected the average plummeting to 3 Saturday.
A Texas-based marketer said he was watching Internet video of the blizzard in Boston Wednesday. Icy precipitation should start clearing up around New England Thursday, but conditions are expected to remain cold with lows getting down to around 20 Thursday, he said.
The cash price turnaround seemed fairly easy to explain, the marketer said -- reconfirmed colder forecasts are finally having the bullish impact that many had expected previously but weren't getting until now.
It's still early with January not even at the halfway point yet, he said, but on Wednesday February basis for Chicago was plus 17-18 cents, while it was plus 21 cents for MichCon.
A Midwest marketer said her company's weather service had indicated at one point early in January that the area "January thaw" would happen by the 22nd, but obviously that's not likely now. The company is trying to draw its storage accounts down by reasonable amounts, she said, but still having to buy supplementary spot gas for customer heating needs.
It would be nice to have a break from the frigid weather before the end of the month, but the marketer said she doesn't really expect one now. She didn't think anybody else in East did either after the latest forecasts were released.
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