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Physical Gas Adds A Few Pennies; Futures Bulls Beat the Drums

Gas for delivery Wednesday overall added a few pennies as futures continued a second straight day of advances and longer-term weather forecasts called for some uncharacteristic coolness.

Physical market gains were widespread, and added about 3 cents overall, but New England and eastern points were able to post some double-digit gains as falling near-term temperatures gave buyers the rationale to make incremental purchases. Only a few locations showed losses, and those were of only of a few pennies. At the close of futures trading, May had advanced 5.8 cents to $4.534 and June was higher by 4.8 cents to $4.550. May crude oil gained $2.12 to $102.56/bbl.

Next-day gas prices in New England advanced by a hefty amount as weather forecasts called for a 10 degree dip Wednesday. Wunderground.com predicted that Boston's Tuesday high of 66 would slump to 56 Wednesday before recovering to 60 on Thursday. The normal high in Boston at this time of year is 53. New York's 64 high on Tuesday was anticipated to slide to 60 Wednesday and rebound to 65 Thursday. The seasonal high in the Big Apple is 58. Philadelphia's 62 high on Tuesday was seen holding Wednesday before rising to 68 Thursday. The normal high in Philadelphia for early April is 57.

The National Weather Service in southeast Massachusetts said "a cold front will exit the coastal waters tonight. High pressure then builds across the region Wednesday with dry and cooler weather. A slight warmup is forecast for Thursday as the high moves off the coast [and] a cold front with low pressure moving along it may bring showers late Friday into Sat. Dry and warm weather is expected Sunday and during the day on Monday. A few showers could reach western areas late Monday ahead of a cold front."

The New England Independent System Operator forecast steady peak power requirements. It estimated peak load Tuesday and Wednesday at 15,510 MW with a slight decrease to 15,500 MW Thursday.

Next-day gas at the Algonquin Citygates added a stout 33 cents to $5.16 and packages into Iroquois Waddington gained 28 cents to $5.12. Deliveries to Tennessee Zone 6 200 L added 46 cents to $5.34.

Marcellus points were mixed. Deliveries to Tennessee Zone 4 Marcellus jumped 23 cents to $4.11 and gas into Transco-Leidy shed 4 cents to $4.11.

Appalachian gas was firm. Next-day gas on Dominion South gained 10 cents to $4.43 and deliveries to Columbia Gas TCO added a couple of pennies to $4.50.

Mid-Atlantic metro areas managed double-digit gains as Wednesday was predicted to be slightly cooler. "After a mostly clear overnight with lows in the upper 40s we'll be a tad cooler on Wednesday with a few clouds, thanks to an upper-level disturbance (but we stay dry) with highs in the middle 60s," said Scott Derek, a meteorologist with the Philadelphia Examiner. "Come Thursday we're back in the upper 60s, and we'll be flirting with 70 come Friday ahead of another cold front (that's not really cold behind the front!)."

Wednesday deliveries to Tetco M-3 gained 13 cents to $4.56, and gas bound for New York City on Transco Zone 6 added 12 cents to $4.59.

Traders see the day's 6-cent advance in futures as a positive omen. "This market put in a solid performance today pushing decisively above a downtrend line extending back to late February while posting highest levels in about one and a half weeks," said Jim Ritterbusch of Ritterbusch and Associates. "While resistance at the late March highs of $4.57 should contain further advances through [Wednesday's] session, we feel that additional gains to our targeted $4.61 area could be achieved by week's end. The short-term temperature views, while not expected to elevate HDDs appreciably, still appear sufficient to downsize injections to be issued later this month."

Other analysts see the market's technical dynamics less about trendlines than Elliott Wave and retracement. They see a strong case that the futures low of $3.953 of Jan. 10 might be the low for the year.

In a weekly report, Walter Zimmermann of United ICAP said the "most bullish case" has been that from an Elliott Wave and retracement viewpoint, "the decline from $6.493 [late February] is a bull market correction and the bull market correction will end by $4.200. Natgas will then break above the $6.493 high later this year."

He noted that last week the market rallied sharply from a $4.221 low and an  extremely bullish hammer bottom on the weekly candlestick was formed. In addition, bullish relative strength indicator divergence buy signals were formed on daily, weekly and monthly charts.

"When we view last week's price action in the context of our most bullish case scenario we must admit that natgas may have put in the low for the year....Bulls now need a weekly close above $4.760 to further their case."

Weather forecasters see near-term transient cold working into the weather outlook followed by out-of-season cold with possible snow. In its morning 20-day forecast, WeatherBELL Analytics said, "Warmth is coming across the next few days in the wake of the trough that is coming through now. The source region of the air mass was not arctic in nature, so the chilly shot comes and goes. However, the developing and expanding major cold pool in Canada starts to press later in the week, then overwhelms the pattern next week with major out-of-season cold/wintery implications."

The major cold late in the period surfaced on European model runs, and WeatherBELL's chief meteorologist, Joe Bastardi, said, "The strategy here is to respect the message that major cold is coming. Let's not buy this extreme snow event yet, but understand the model showing something like this for several runs now is latching onto at least the major cold."

Seasonal heating requirements, though dwindling, look to be greater than normal. In the six- to 10-day period, nationally WeatherBELL forecasts 76.5 heating degree days (HDD). Last year saw 53.8 HDD and the 30-year average stands at 53.4 HDD, according to WeatherBELL figures.

Storage facilities are increasing injections over a wide front. According to industry consultant Genscape, Southeast Mid-Atlantic storage injection increased by 1.0 Bcf/d week-on-week, going from 0.5 Bcf/d of withdrawal to 0.5 Bcf/d of injection and Louisiana storage injection increased by 0.9 Bcf/d week-on-week, going from 0.7 Bcf/d of withdrawal to 0.3 Bcf/d of injection.

Also, Midwest storage injection increased by 0.6 Bcf/d week-on-week, going from 0.5 Bcf/d of withdrawal to 0.1 Bcf/d of injection and California storage injection increased by 0.4 Bcf/d week-on-week, going from 0.4 Bcf/d of injection to 0.9 Bcf/d of injection.

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