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Weak Northeast, East Lead Market Lower; November Out Like A Lamb

Physical gas prices for Wednesday delivery fell 6 cents overall in Tuesday's trading, while traders were busy keeping one eye on a slip-sliding November futures contract as well as weather forecasts calling for unseasonable warmth in eastern energy markets and a weak next-day power market.

Losses were broad and only a few locations made it into the plus column. East and Northeast points were down close to a dime, but some locations probed deeper into double-digit losses. At the close of futures trading, November expired at $3.496, down 7.3 cents, and December was off 3.2 cents to $3.629. December crude oil fell 48 cents to $98.20/bbl.

Weak next-day power prices did little to aid the cause of stronger prompt gas quotes. IntercontinentalExchange reported that next-day peak power at the New England Power Pool's Massachusetts Hub fell $2.49 to $40.39/MWh and next-day peak power into the PJM Interconnect West delivery point dropped $2.32 to $36.68/MWh. In eastern New York, next-day peak power at the New York Independent System Operator's Zone G delivery node retreated $2.58 to $40.40/MWh.

Weather forecasts were calling for well above normal temperatures up and down the East Coast later in the week. The National Weather Service (NWS) in suburban Philadelphia reported that "high pressure across the region will slide to our east through Wednesday. A warm front will lift northward across our area during Thursday, [and] a strong cold front is then scheduled to arrive during Friday, followed by a secondary cold front Saturday. High pressure is then forecast to build in Sunday and Monday before shifting offshore Tuesday."

Forecaster Wunderground.com said Tuesday's high in Boston of 54 would ease Wednesday to 52 before jumping to 64 on Thursday. The normal late-October high for Boston is 57. New York City's Tuesday high of 56 was predicted to rise to 59 Wednesday before making it up to 66 Thursday. The seasonal high in New York is 60. Philadelphia's high Tuesday of 59 was forecast to hold Wednesday before rising 9 degrees to 68 on Thursday. The normal high in Philadelphia at this time of year is 59.

Deliveries Wednesday to the Algonquin Citygates were quoted 8 cents lower at $4.54, and gas into Iroquois Waddington dropped 9 cents to $3.98. On Tennessee Zone 6 200 L gas came in at $4.49, down 20 cents.

Deliveries to Dominion fell 11 cents to $3.36, and on Tetco M-3 gas was quoted at $3.57, down 5 cents. Gas on its way to New York City on Transco Zone 6 was seen at $3.70, down 9 cents.

Marcellus points took some big hits. Transco Leidy Thursday gas tumbled 91 cents to $2.28, and gas on Tennessee Zone 4 Marcellus dropped 6 cents to $2.09.

Major market centers to the west were off a few pennies. At the Chicago Citygates, next-day gas was seen at $3.75, down 8 cents, but at El Paso Permian packages for next-day delivery fell 3 cents to $3.52. At Opal, Thursday gas came in at $3.63, down 2 cents, and at the PG&E Citygates gas slipped a penny to $3.93.

With the November futures contract dropping more than 7 cents and the now spot December contract giving up just 3 cents, the stage may be set for further declines Wednesday. "The December may open up 2 to 3 cents lower [Wednesday]," said a New York floor trader. "The market has been weak, and the whole spectrum [of energy contracts] has been weak. Only the heating oil was firm."

If traders didn't have enough on their plate with the expiration of the November contract, weather forecasters showed sharply different interpretations for the six- to 10-day period. NWS showed a warm East, from the Atlantic Seaboard to a line from Wisconsin to West Texas and a cool mountain West, Pacific Northwest and California.

On the other hand, forecaster Commodity Weather Group showed a cool West, from the Continental Divide to the Pacific, much like the NWS, but the remainder of the country was seen as normal.

"Gone is the stronger cooling of late October, but it is not yet being replaced by the stronger warm anomaly pattern of early October either," said Matt Rogers, president of Commodity Weather Group in a Tuesday morning report. "[Tuesday's] forecast tweaks offer only small demand changes (perhaps slightly more) after losing a fair amount yesterday from the weekend. In this complicated pattern picture, the guidance will likely continue to vacillate back and forth on specific details, but we still do not see a setup for a bigger cold pattern. If anything, there is still more warm versus cool risk as it would only take a slightly bigger westward nudge of the Pacific ridge to create a much warmer look."

Analysts for the most part seem to be going with the warmer East interpretation. "This market continues to respond to last weekend's significant shift in short-term temperature views that are now favoring mild temperature trends across the eastern half of the U.S. out to around the 12th of November," said Jim Ritterbusch of Ritterbusch and Associates in a Tuesday morning note to clients.

"This should accommodate some stronger than usual supply injections and a seasonal supply peak that could potentially be seen on the 14th of November rather than the seasonal top normally established at around the 7th. These items are easily overshadowing what is apt to be a downsized storage upswing on Thursday where a 40-something injection will likely fall short of last year's 66 Bcf build and the five-year average increase of 57 Bcf."

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