Physical gas traders weren't taking any chances that gas for Monday and Tuesday delivery would be as readily available as usual.
At Eastern points where weather was forecast to be warm and humid, they bid prices up by double digits in some cases. Strength along the East Coast was able to offset weakness in such spots as the Gulf, Great Lakes, Rockies and California. Overall, the market rose 11 cents.
Futures trading went into its typical pre-holiday weekend funk and prices were confined to less than a six-cent range. At the close, October had risen 2.1 cents to $4.065 and November was higher by 1.5 cents to $4.116. October crude oil added $1.41 to $95.96/bbl.
Forecasters at AccuWeather.com were calling for warm, humid, load enhancing weather to emerge over the weekend into the next week. "After a brief cooldown late this week, very warm and humid air will bounce back during the Labor Day weekend," said meteorologist Alex Sosnowski. "The pattern will be a boost for outdoor summer activities ranging from swimming to cookouts and ball games. [Tropical Storm] Cristobal will have moved well off into the North Atlantic by this weekend, which will allow seas and surf to diminish.
“High temperatures will flirt with the 90-degree mark from Washington, DC, to Philadelphia and New York City on Sunday and Labor Day. The warmth will be accompanied by a surge in humidity levels and an increasing risk of showers and thunderstorms. The combination of temperature, humidity, sunshine and other conditions will drive [heat index] temperatures well into the 90s to near 100 for several hours from the late morning into the afternoon. The bulk of the shower and thunderstorm activity will hold up from the Appalachians to the Midwest through the day Sunday. The best chance of a downpour reaching the I-95 corridor and the beaches is Sunday night and Monday."
Looking further out, forecasters are not expecting much in the way of a cooldown during September. "While temperatures will fluctuate from one day to the next and will be dependent on the amount of shower and thunderstorm activity, chilly air will not be in a hurry to move in during September. "The pattern through the first half of September in the East will generally favor more days with above-average warmth, than days with below-average warmth," said AccuWeather.com meteorologist Paul Pastelok.
Pastelok expects a push of chilly air to build southeastward from Canada around the third week of September. "Ahead of that push may be a surge of very warm air into the East during the second week of the month, [and] the pattern may guide some tropical systems that develop in the Atlantic toward the southern part of the United States, the Caribbean and Mexico."
Points in the Northeast for Monday and Tuesday delivery vaulted higher. Gas at the Algonquin Citygates jumped $1.06 to $3.81, and deliveries to Iroquois Waddington were up 30 cents to $4.14. On Millennium, gas was seen 7 cents higher at $2.24, but at Tennessee Zone 6 200 L Monday and Tuesday gas surged $1.11 to $3.85.
Gas headed for New York City on Transco Zone 6 rose by 52 cents to $2.48, and packages on Tetco M-3 gained 42 cents to $2.43.
Deliveries to Columbia Gas TCO slipped 3 cents to $3.98, but gas at Dominion South rose by 16 cents to $2.19.
Marcellus points firmed. Parcels on Transco Leidy added 5 cents to $2.01, and gas on Tennessee Zone 4 Marcellus was seen 5 cents higher at $2.00.
Producing zones showed nowhere near the strength of the East. In the Gulf, Carthage deliveries were seen 1 cent lower at $3.93, and deliveries to ANR SE was flat at $3.92. On Tennessee 500 L Monday and Tuesday parcels fell a penny to $3.97, but at the Henry Hub was flat at $4.02.
At the Cheyenne Hub gas eased a penny to $3.84, and on CIG gas was seen a penny lower as well to $3.79. At Opal Monday and Tuesday gas slipped 4 cents to $3.86, and on Northwest Wyoming Pool packages changed hands at $3.83, down 2 cents.
Analysts see the futures market capable of a testing Thursday's highs ($4.10) in the near term. "[T]he market’s ability to post highest levels since July 17th improved the chart picture with the bullish momentum of the past couple of weeks capable of a re-visit by October futures to [Thursday's] highs of $4.10," said Jim Ritterbusch of Ritterbusch and Associates in closing comments Thursday to clients.
"A renewed burst of strength could also develop off of continued warm temperature views that are now extending beyond the first third of next month. While we have emphasized that hot temperatures in September tend to pack limited pricing punch, a significant downsizing in storage injections on Sept. 11th will still be a force with which to be reckoned. With today’s data, the supply deficit against five-year average levels has shrunk to 16.5% from a shortfall of around 50% that existed at around the end of last winter. Despite next week’s expected warm-up, we still look for average weekly deficit contraction of about 1% that would keep storage on track to approach the 3.6 Tcf level by early November. Much of our forecast remains predicated on a continued quiet hurricane season that will accommodate production at or near record levels.
“Overall, we have shifted from a short-term neutral posture to a bearish stance as we suggest holding any short October positions established at around the $4.04 area today. We are advising stop protection above $4.20. But at the same time, we also suggest holding deferred bull spreads employing the December 2014 contract as long leg against spring 2015 contracts."
Other traders favor the buy side. Tim Evans of Citi Futures Perspective suggests working a buy order on the October contract at $3.68 with stop-loss protections at $3.48 should the order get filled.
Power buyers across the broad MISO footprint may be scaling back on weekend purchases as forecasters there favor a cool incursion. WSI Corp. in its Friday morning outlook said, "A complex frontal system will support areas of rain and storms during the next couple of days, which will support variable temperatures. This initial system should depart during Sunday, but a better-defined cold front and round of rain and storms may gradually slide across the power pool late in the weekend into early next week. Severe weather is possible. Rainfall totals may range 1-3 inches-plus."
Wind generation could spike. "Unsettled weather will support variable wind generation during the next couple of days. Output may occasionally top out around 3 GW. The expected cold front may support a sharp boost in wind generation during Saturday night through Sunday. Output may spike up over 5 GW."