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Cash Leads Futures Higher In Weather-Driven Trading

Spot natural gas prices were able to post double-digit gains in Monday's trading as near-term temperature forecasts called for above-normal temperatures and cast doubt about continuing hefty additions to storage.

Nearly all points gained, some points advancing by close to a dollar, and on average spot prices were higher by 16 cents. Midwest, Midcontinent and California points were especially strong. At the close of futures trading July had added 7.0 cents to $4.612 and August was higher by 7.4 cents to $4.598. July crude oil shed 24 cents to $102.47/bbl.

Next-day prices in the Midwest and Midcontinent firmed as weather forecasts called for an above-normal temperature regime to settle in. AccuWeather.com reported that over the weekend Chicago endured highs of 92, and Monday's high of 82 was expected to ease to only 80 by Tuesday before sliding to 64 on Wednesday. The seasonal high in Chicago is 75. St. Louis' Monday high of 86 was seen increasing to a toasty 90 Tuesday and 91 on Wednesday, 10 degrees above normal. Kansas City's 85 high on Monday was predicted to rise to 89 Tuesday and ease to 87 on Wednesday. The normal early June high in Kansas City is 81.

Warm and stormy weather is expected to grip the Great Lakes and Midwest. According to AccuWeather.com's Kevin Byrne, "The beginning of the week will mark the beginning of a stretch of stormy weather for Chicago. Highs will remain in the 80s on Monday, but the stormy weather will persist. A couple of heavy, gusty thunderstorms will move into the area, and the chance for a strong thunderstorm could remain into the evening hours. A break in the stormy weather will come on Tuesday, with highs in the lower 80s and times of clouds and sun throughout the day."

By Wednesday things cool off considerably in the Windy City. "After an active Monday across the Chicago area with showers and gusty thunderstorms, drier air will move into the area by Tuesday," said AccuWeather.com meteorologist Brian Edwards. He said a complex of thunderstorms will move into Chicago very late Tuesday night and into the day on Wednesday with the potential for heavy rain and strong, gusty winds. The rain will keep temperatures in the 60s for much of Wednesday," he said.

Gas for delivery Tuesday at the Joliet Hub gained 13 cents to $4.65, and on Alliance Tuesday parcels were seen at $4.65, up 13 cents. At the Chicago Citygates, next-day gas changed hands at $4.63, 11 cents higher, and at Northern Natural Ventura, gas added 12 cents to $4.60. At Demarcation Tuesday gas came in at $4.60, up 12 cents.

Next-day prices in the producing region made even stouter gains. Gas on ANR SW jumped 16 cents to $4.47, and gas at the NGPL Midcontinent Pool rose 13 cents to $4.49. On OGT, Tuesday packages were seen at $4.32, up 14 cents, and on Panhandle Eastern next-day gas changed hands at $4.38, up a hefty 19 cents.

The Northeast was expected to see warmth and humidity. AccuWeather.com meteorologist Brian Lada said, "Temperatures were on the rise over the weekend, setting the stage for a warm and more humid start to June in the Northeast. Temperatures will continue to rise across the region on Monday with many locations climbing into the 80s during the afternoon. Temperatures will continue to climb along the I-95 corridor through Wednesday with highs reaching the mid to upper 80s, [and] a few bank thermometers may even give readings in the 90s."

AccuWeather.com forecast that Monday's high in Boston of 82 would ease to 77 Tuesday before slipping to 77 Tuesday and 70 Wednesday. The normal high in Boston this time of year is 72. Hartford, CT's high of 83 Monday was seen easing to 82 Tuesday and falling to 77 on Wednesday. The seasonal high in Hartford is 76.

Gas at the Algonquin Citygates rose by 16 cents to $3.72, but deliveries to Tennessee Zone 6 200 L surged a full dollar to $4.64. Gas at Iroquois Waddington jumped 52 cents to $4.84.

Futures traders were unimpressed with the day's activity. "We went out close to the highs, but we really didn't see anything. It was only a 10-cent range," said a New York floor trader. "I think you will have to use $4.85 and $4.25 as your long-term parameters."

Forecasters see nothing on the longer-term horizon to elevate demand and diminish storage injections above and beyond seasonal levels. "With it officially meteorological summer now, we still do not see any significant heat concerns for the Midwest and East over the next few weeks," said Matt Rogers, president of Commodity Weather Group in a morning forecast.

"A quick burst of warmth delivers mainly some upper 80s to the lower Midwest to lower Mid-Atlantic with a little bit of humidity, but the six-15 day looks mainly near seasonal overall with no significant cooling demand concerns and probably a bit more cooler risks at times with precipitation issues. Texas is hotter this week with middle 90s for Dallas and low 90s in Houston, especially for the second half. They look to take a break from those levels in the six-10 day but could inch back that direction again in the 11-15. The West sees the stronger heat potential, but it is mainly in the interior with the Desert Southwest the main hottest focus, while coastal SoCal holds cooler again."

Mike DeVooght of DEVO Capital Management is looking for rallies as hedging opportunities. "We would use rallies approaching $4.60-4.80 on the summer natural gas strip as an opportunity for producers to lock in forward sales, primarily using floors and collars," he said in a monthly report to clients.

For the moment, he suggests trading accounts to hold short a July futures position rolled from when April was at $5.00 to $5.10, and end-users should stand aside. Producers and those with exposure to lower prices are counseled to hold short the remainder of a May-October strip initiated at $4.20 to $4.30 as well as a second summer strip sold at $4.50.

Raymond James is raising its rig forecast, but it has less to do with the natural gas outlook than activity elsewhere. "[T]he recent surge in U.S. horizontal activity has surpassed even our expectations. Accordingly, we are raising our 2014 U.S. rig forecast from 1,806 rigs to 1,849 rigs (which is up 5% y/y vs our previous 2.5% y/y growth)," the company said in a report.

"More importantly, we are raising our U.S. horizontal rig forecast from 11% y/y growth to 14% y/y growth (or y/y growth of an average of 153 versus our prior growth estimate of 123 horizontal rigs). While there are many moving parts driving our rig forecast (e.g., pad drilling, infrastructure bottlenecks, higher completion spending, etc.), the focal points for this upward revision are 1.) the Permian, 2.) the Permian, and 3.) the Permian. Of course, it is not that simple, but the message is that the majority of horizontal expansion (or the driver of new-builds/equipment repositioning) is going to hit the Permian.

"Surprisingly, the Marcellus does not help our 2015 rig forecast: With natural gas storage levels left lower due to unusually large winter withdrawals, the market should pull the Marcellus to produce more gas. While the gas is there, we don't think additional takeaway capacity will be there to the point where drilling activity will surge. With additional takeaway capacity build-outs already projected to be 100% utilized, we cannot justify horizontal rig growth in the latter half of 2015. We are modeling about 5% growth in 2015 (about five rigs),with all of this growth happening at the beginning of the year."

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