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Physical and Futures Waltz Higher; Mid-Atlantic Limited by Moderating Weather Forecasts

Both physical gas and futures posted gains in Tuesday's trading. Gas for Wednesday delivery at most points added anywhere from a nickel to a dime, although the Mid-Atlantic took some hits as weather forecasts moderated.

Market zones in the East rose as maintenance on major pipelines limited availability. The overall advance was 9 cents. Futures also posted a gain, and at the close September was up 6.3 cents to $3.897 and October had risen 6.1 cents to $3.920. September crude oil tumbled 91 cents to $97.38/bbl.

Continuing maintenance on major interstate pipelines delivering gas to eastern markets kept a firm bid for next-day volumes at a number of locations near major markets. Tennessee Gas Pipeline said, "Due to the ongoing scheduled maintenance and milder weather, Tennessee is experiencing continued limited flexibility in Zone 4. Since mid-July, Tennessee has upgraded the Action Alert OFO downstream of Station 315 and upstream of Station 321 on the 300 Line in Zone 4 for all Balancing Parties...to a Critical Day 1 OFO," the company said on its website.

Gas for next-day delivery at the Algonquin Citygates added 5 cents to $2.86, and deliveries to Iroquois Waddington gained 9 cents to $3.97. On Tennessee Zone 6 200 L, packages changed hands at $3.05, up 18 cents.

On Millennium gas for Wednesday rose 4 cents to $2.41, and on Dominion South, next-day parcels were seen at $2.37, up 10 cents. Buyers on Columbia Gas saw quotes higher by a nickel to $3.85.

Prices at Marcellus points continued to fall in response to abundant supplies and maintenance. "Cash prices at Transco-Leidy Line have fallen in response to maintenance at Transco Compressor Station 515. Basis prices dropped from the monthly average of (1.72) to (2.21) after maintenance was announced on July 29," industry consultant Genscape said in a report. "Flow restrictions at Station 515 began on July 31, and have reduced flows by 128 MMcf/d from a monthly average of 1,760 MMcf/d to 1,632 MMcf/d. Temperatures in Appalachia have been below historical averages since July 1 and are expected to remain low through Aug. 18. Low temperatures should take pressure off the flow constraints and further weaken prices at Leidy."

Gas for next-day delivery at Transco-Leidy gained a penny to $2.09, and gas on Tennessee Zone 4 Marcellus added 2 cents to $1.99.

Next-day deliveries in the Mid-Atlantic eased as weather forecasts called for moderating temperatures and load-killing rain. AccuWeather.com predicted that Tuesday's high in Boston would ease to 78 Wednesday and hold through Thursday. The normal high in Boston is 81. New York City's 89 high Tuesday was seen sliding to 84 Wednesday with afternoon rain and 81 on Thursday. The normal early August high in New York is 84.

The National Weather Service in New York City said "a cold front will approach from the west this evening [Tuesday] and move slowly across the area tonight into Wednesday afternoon as an upper trough also approaches. A weak surface trough will follow for Thursday...then high pressure will build across from Friday into Monday. A cold front will approach on Tuesday."

Gas for delivery Wednesday on Transco Zone 6 into New York fell 14 cents to $2.70, and parcels on Tetco M-3 were off 12 cents to $2.62.

Futures traders attributed the day's advance more to a lack of selling and the willingness of large spec traders to accept profits on short positions ahead of the mid-month seasonal price low.

Analysts see a market that for the moment is having to deal with a weather outlook that is less bearish, and a hint of coal-to-gas switching. "This market was able to piece together a small advance [Monday] with the assistance of short-term temperature updates that appear less bearish than those seen at week's end," said Jim Ritterbusch of Ritterbusch and Associates in closing comments Monday to clients.

"Although no significant or broad-based hot spell is being seen on the horizon, the shift in weather views appeared sufficient to quell selling interest for now. Short position holders have also become impatient with the market's inability to post significant price change from two weeks ago...We believe that the market is also being forced to price in another downsized storage injection from last Thursday's 88 Bcf build. We will be looking for an increase of 84 Bcf that would compare with the five-year average hike of 49 Bcf.

"Although year-over-year comparisons will become more difficult from here on out, we still see the shortfall against averages peeling off in sizable chunks at least within the next three weekly EIA releases. Nonetheless, it would appear that a $3 price handle is beginning to kick in coal to gas displacement that could keep the trade range bound for at least another week with $4 back on the table."

Power generators across the Midwest can expect weak wind generation for the next two days, according to forecasts by WSI Corp. It said that throughout MISO (Midwest Independent System Operator), "a cold front and wave of low pressure will slide out of the northern Plains and across the Midwest during the next two to three days with a round of rain and thunderstorm activity. Meanwhile, high pressure will nose southward into parts of the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes. High pressure should become more expansive during Friday into Saturday which will confine the chance of any wet weather into the southern tier. Rainfall amounts may range as high as one to three inches."

"Weak wind generation is expected for a good portion of [Tuesday]. The cold front and wave of low pressure will cause generation to improve tonight, Wednesday into early Thursday morning, at which point output may peak 2-3 GW," the company said in its Tuesday morning forecast.

The National Hurricane Center in its 5 p.m. EDT Tuesday report said Tropical Storm Bertha was 415 miles northwest of Bermuda. It was moving to the north-northeast at 21 mph, and winds were down to 50 mph.

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