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Early Spring Blizzard Leads Northeast Higher; Futures Slip Again

Apparently Ol' Man Winter hasn't checked the calendar recently, and while the 2013-2014 winter is technically history, you wouldn't know it from some of the weather forecasts. Spot gas for delivery Tuesday posted a broad advance nationally with few points finding themselves in the loss column. Gains ranged from a few pennies in the Gulf and Rockies to double-digit advances at Great Lakes points to multiple dollar weather-driven gains in New England and the East.

At the close of futures trading April had sunk 3.7 cents to $4.276 and May was off 2.5 cents to $4.272. May crude oil gained 14 cents to $99.60.

Winter is refusing to go gracefully. According to Kristina Pydynowski, AccuWeather.com meteorologist, "Even though spring began last week, the risk for blizzards will continue. Such a storm is forecast to threaten part of the Atlantic Seaboard at midweek. The blizzard is expected to swipe eastern New England and slam Atlantic Canada Tuesday night through Wednesday night."

"The projected path of the storm puts Cape Cod, Mass., and Down East Maine at greatest risk for fierce blizzard conditions in the United States, [and] Those in Providence, RI, Boston, Portsmouth, NH, and Portland, ME, are among the residents in eastern New England who can expect wind-swept snow with a chance of blizzard conditions developing if the storm track shifts a bit farther to the west than currently forecast. A much less-intense storm is forecast in New York City and Hartford, CT, where 1-3 inches of snow will fall with a cold wind."

Her data shows that "The rest of the East Coast will escape the worst of the storm, but there is still nuisance to disruptive snowfall in store for the spine of the Appalachians, Virginia, and the rest of the Northeast."

Consistent with the cold and snowy forecasts the National Weather Service (NWS) is forecasting above normal heating requirements for the week. For the week ended March 29, NWS predicts an accumulation of 231 heating degree days (HDD) or 47 above normal. The Mid-Atlantic is expecting 218 HDD or 54 more than normal, and the Midwest from Ohio to Wisconsin should see 238 HDD or 68 more than normal.

Temperatures throughout major population centers are expected to be about 10 to 15 degrees below normal. AccuWeather.com forecasts that the high Monday in New York City of 35 will rise to 38 Tuesday and hold for Wednesday. The normal high for New York this time of year, however, is 52. In Chicago the high Monday of 34 was seen dipping to 27 Tuesday before jumping to 39 Wednesday. The normal high in Chicago for late March is 50.

Gas for Tuesday delivery to the Algonquin Citygates rose $4.53 to $12.41 and gas into Iroquois Waddington added $1.06 to $7.77. On Tennessee Zone 6 200 L next-day parcels were seen at $12.65, up $4.39.

Gas on Transco-Leidy surged 70 cents to $3.39, and on Dominion gas for delivery Tuesday rose 25 cents to $4.29.

Packages on Tetco M-3 Delivery added 62 cents to $5.06 and gas headed for New York City on Transco Zone 6 vaulted $2.50 to $7.18.

To say midwest weather developments were expected to be highly variable would be an understatement. Tom Skilling of the Chicago Weather Center was looking for "Interesting weather developments ahead in the coming week--including continuing indications of major warming over the coming weekend which could see temps surging well into the 60s. That's to follow possible snow [Monday].

The average first date of a 70-deg temp has been on/about March 26 at Midway Airport which would put such a warm-up right close to schedule. Some models are even carrying this warmth into Monday which would make for a spectacular home opener for the White Sox at the Cell," he said on his Facebook page.

Double-digit gains were the rule in the Great Lakes. At Joliet next-day packages rose 47 cents to $6.61 and on Alliance gas for Tuesday delivery gained 42 cents to $6.61. At the Chicago Citygates gas changed hands at $5.06, up 18 cents and on Consumers next-day parcels were seen at $6.69, up 39 cents. Michcon deliveries added 58 cents to $6.76.

Futures traders described the day's trading as lackadaisical. "It seems like we just keep grinding lower 5 to 6 cents a day. The April May spreads have been coming in a little bit, but it now looks as though $4.25 will be the targeted strike when options expire on Wednesday," said a New York floor trader.

Forecasters are calling for an on-again off-again pattern of cooler temperatures. Joe Bastardi, meteorologist with WeatherBELL Analytics, in his morning 20 day forecast said there should be a "Very cold front 5 days [with] warming spread[ing] eastward for the middle 5 days. West cools some."

"Cold presses in yet again days 10-15 [and] Negative NAO/AO couplet means more colder than normal days 15-25. [Expect] Snow on East Coast [Tuesday] afternoon into Wednesday. No changes from yesterday's ideas."

Risk managers are holding on to their short positions. Mike 'DeVooght, president of DEVO Capital Management, a Colorado-based trading and risk management firm says trading accounts should hold on to short April futures from $5.00 to $5.10. End users are counseled to stand aside and producers and those with exposure to lower prices should stay short an initial April October strip established at $4.20 to $4.30 and also a second short April October strip from $4.50. The April October strip settled Friday at $4.343.

"The weekly storage numbers were viewed as negative when they came in with a smaller than anticipated draw. On a trading basis, we will hold short positions and look for the market to continue to work back toward the $4 level," he said.

Tom Saal, vice president at INTL FC Stone in Miami in his work with Market Profile is looking for the market to test last week's value area at $4.513 to $4.317. In a plot of weekly market profiles, Saal identifies areas of "minus development" which become trading objectives for those concerned with market direction. In a morning report he identified two areas of minus development, one at $4.240 and a second at $4.110. He also noted that the lack of forward carry is presenting no financial incentive to store gas. "The market thinks there is plenty of gas available. It is stored in the ground."

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