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Eastern Gains Lead Cash Higher, Yet Futures Grind Lower

Steady to firm next-day prices were able to offset losses in the Mid-Atlantic as well as a volatile eastern pricing matrix in Tuesday's trading.

Pipeline constraints as well as a mini New England warm spell pushed prices in the Northeast higher, and more modest gains were seen in the Midwest and Gulf Coast. Overall, the market gained two cents. Futures prices executed an unimpressive slide; the October contract fell 3.4 cents to $3.816, and November shed 3.9 cents to $3.869. November crude oil added 69 cents to $91.56/bbl.

Prices on Tennessee Zone 6 200 L proved to be the day's outlier with a jump of $2.65 to $6.06 following a severe cutback in pipeline capacity.

Algonquin Gas Transmission said, "Due to the previously posted maintenance required on its 24-inch line between the Cromwell Compressor Station (Cromwell) and Burrillville Compressor Station, AGT has restricted interruptible and approximately 94% of secondary out of path nominations that exceed entitlement sourced from points west of its Cromwell Compressor Station for delivery to points east of Cromwell. No increases in nominations sourced from points west of Cromwell for delivery to points east of Cromwell, except for Primary Firm No-Notice nominations, will be accepted."

Deliveries to the Algonquin Citygates were also impacted, but customers also had to endure a weather forecast calling for well above normal temperatures. AccuWeather.com forecast that the high in Boston Tuesday of 75 was expected to jump to 80 Wednesday and Thursday, well ahead of the seasonal norm of 74.

Next-day gas at the Algonquin Citygates surged 91 cents to $4.04.

Temperatures elsewhere in the East were forecast to oscillate around normal readings for this time of year. New York City's 71 degree high on Tuesday was forecast to rise to 73 Wednesday but drop to 66 on Thursday. The normal high in New York is 73. Norfolk, VA's 66 high on Tuesday was seen advancing to 73 Wednesday and 75 Thursday with thunderstorms. The seasonal high in Norfolk is 77.

Forecasters were calling for rain to move north along the East Coast midweek. Residents along much of the Interstate-95 corridor will experience load-killing rain as storms move northward during the middle of the week, according to AccuWeather.com meteorologist Brian Lada.

"While warm and dry conditions are still expected from New England through the Ohio Valley, an area of low pressure will slowly spread rain up the Eastern Seaboard through Thursday. The rain and associated cloud cover will put a lid on temperatures along the I-95 corridor with highs on Thursday in the 60s.

"The rain will reach part of southern New England, including the Boston area, by Thursday night, [but] some locations just 200 miles away to the north and west could experience sunshine and highs in the 70s."

Gas headed for New York City on Transco Zone 6 slipped 8 cents to $1.99, and gas on Tetco M-3 fell 10 cents to $1.98.

Elsewhere, prices were mixed. Deliveries to Iroquois Waddington added 10 cents to $3.99, but gas on Millennium fell 21 cents to $1.90. Parcels on Columbia Gas TCO rose 2 cents to $3.92, and gas on Dominion South shed 12 cents to $1.86.

Quotes in the Gulf moved little. At the Henry Hub next-day gas was seen 2 cents higher at $3.89, and on Transco Zone 3 next-day packages came in at $3.87, up a penny. Gas on Tennessee 500 L added a penny to $3.83, and gas at the Houston Ship Channel was up a penny at $3.92. Deliveries to Katy rose 2 cents to $3.90.

Gas in the Midcontinent was narrowly mixed. Deliveries to ANR SW added a penny to $3.78, and gas on OGT was flat at $3.70. Deliveries to the NGPL Midcontinent Pool fell a penny to $3.80, and gas on Panhandle Eastern changed hands at $3.69, 4 cents lower. Parcels on NGPL TX OK, however, were quoted at $3.87, 2 cents higher.

Mike DeVooght, president of DEVO Capital Management, a Colorado-based trading and risk management firm, is counseling both trading accounts and end-users to stand aside the market. Physical market longs and those with exposure to lower prices should hold on to the tail end of a short summer strip initially entered at $4.20 to $4.30, but also a second summer strip sold at $4.50. According to DEVO figures, the summer strip settled at $3.821 on Friday.

"As we wrap up the summer, there is a very good chance that the gas market will continue to probe the year's lows. If we fail to hold the $3.75-3.80 level, technical selling could push the gas market into the mid-$3 level. A cool summer, high production and mediocre demand continue to keep the gas market on the defensive. To have a substantial bull market, we feel we need to see an uptick in demand to offset the steady production increase we are experiencing in the U.S. We could see short-term weather-related spikes, but we still feel selling rallies above $4.50 for producers is an attractive forward selling level."

Others also think standing aside the market is a good idea inasmuch as the risk-to-reward environment doesn't look attractive. "Although this market managed to finish the day in firm fashion, today's drop to below last week's lows has further shifted pricing momentum back to the down side," said Jim Ritterbusch of Ritterbusch and Associates in closing comments Monday to clients. "Weekend temperature updates looked bearish from our perspective, with mild trends beginning to stretch out through the first week of October. It would appear that some additional large storage injections now lie ahead out through the EIA [Energy Information Administration] release of Oct. 9th as a minimum.

"So while this week's EIA report will show reduction in deficit contraction from the prior week, we still see the dynamic of a narrowing deficit very much intact and on target to meet our 3.6 Tcf supply peak by mid-November. However, we do feel that speculative selling interest is beginning to wane and a bullish surprise in Thursday's EIA release could pack more pricing punch than an equivalent sized bearish surprise. But between now and Thursday, the market could easily achieve our downside target to the $3.75 level despite speculative short-covering out of the October contract that goes off the board at week's end," Ritterbusch said.

"All in all, we are maintaining a bearish approach for now but would advise against fresh shorts at current levels given what we view as unfavorable risk-reward ratios."

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