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Bearish Signal Proves Correct as Most Points Fall

As indicated in Tuesday's dwindling gains and increased softness, the cash market's recent bull run was coming to a close. This was borne out in Wednesday trading; several locations, mostly in the Northeast, were flat or higher again, but a majority of points saw generally minor declines.

Several instances of flat numbers clustered in the Gulf Coast and San Juan Basin for the most part joined Northeast gains that ran as high as about 20 cents. The Rockies/Pacific Northwest took most of the larger price hits amid losses ranging from 2-3 cents to about a dime.

Prompt-month futures denied support to next-day cash trading even more strongly as the June contract dropped 9.3 cents (see related story) after falling 2.3 cents a day earlier.

Iroquois Zone 2 topped all price increases as it reported that receipt nominations were at capacity through its Brookfield interconnect with Algonquin and had been sealed from further increases for Thursday's gas day. Also, Iroquois said, contracts using Brookfield as an alternate receipt point were subject to allocation.

The Northeast saw most of the remaining rising numbers despite a modest warming trend. Still, lows in the Thursday forecast ranged from the 30s in upper New England to the mid 40s in the lower Northeast. The Midwest also could expect warmer temperatures but with lows still in the chilly 40s, but regional citygates dropped by up to a dime. One source suggested that the differences were because of significantly greater storage capacity in the Midwest than in the Northeast.

The South was another area where temperatures were on the rise, but it is not experiencing much air conditioning use for the time of year being as highs generally remain in the 70s except in the southern half of Texas, where some 80s peaks were due Thursday. San Juan quotes constituted the rare flat numbers in the West as highs in the 90s are predicted from the Phoenix area through parts of interior California; otherwise moderation is the key to most of the western weather outlook.

PG&E ended a low-inventory OFO, and PG&E citygate prices dropped about a dime, according to IntercontinentalExchange (ICE), although citygate volumes on its platform slipped only marginally to 1,116,000 MMBtu after soaring to 1,286,800 MMBtu a day earlier. In a related note, Westcoast said previously low linepack had returned to normal Wednesday.

With temperatures gradually going up in much of the Midwest, Chicago citygate quotes slipped about a nickel as ICE said its Chicago trading activity also fell, down 62,700 MMBtu to 834,100 MMBtu Wednesday.

An Overage Alert Day by Florida Gas Transmission (FGT) had minor price impact. FGT Zone 3 in the production area and the Florida citygate were flat, but FGT Zones 1 and 2 fell 2-3 cents or so.

Rockies Express said it expects to complete repairs at the Julesburg Compressor Station on or around Sunday, when it will lift a force majeure there and end a constraint on Segment 240 capacity.

A Midwest utility buyer said it was still on the chilly side in his area Wednesday, but peak temperatures should be reaching the 70s by the weekend. And like another regional utility buyer earlier in the week, he said a relatively moderate forecast out to 10 days indicated that his company's service territory might be escaping any return of serious cold until after summer.

However, he said there was still local heating load resulting from overnight lows in the 30s during the past couple of nights ("my furnace has been kicking on"), but it almost certainly will be fading this weekend.

As the utility's gas buyer, he anticipated a fairly quiet period coming up except for working on an internal company project. He didn't expect to be very active in the spot market until summer heat arrives, when it will be necessary to buy more gas for the electric generation side.

A Northeast marketer said the region was finding just enough heating demand to keep it one of the few still-firmer markets, at least for now, but that was unlikely to last.

Credit Suisse analysts Hugh Li and Stefan Revielle anticipate a 65 Bcf storage injection being reported for the week ending April 29. That would compare with comparable levels of 83 Bcf a year ago and a 78 Bcf five-year average, they said.

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