Siding with prior-day futures weakness instead of sticking to the week’s flip-flopping trend, cash points unanimously crumbled on Friday with most points declining by more than a half-dollar and a number of points out west shedding more than a dollar.
Despite the week’s track record, which featured dominant market gains on Monday and Wednesday and prevalent pullbacks on Tuesday and Thursday, cash traders on Friday instead focused on the facts, which include more than 3.3 Tcf of gas in storage and a November futures contract drop on Thursday of 35.8 cents. If traders continue to go with the tangibles, the market could see further value declines on Monday after front-month futures shaved another 18 cents to close at $6.239.
The East and Midcontinent regions saw mostly drops of between 40 to 70 cents while the greater Texas and Louisiana areas saw declines mostly in the 40-50 cent range. The Henry Hub on Friday averaged $6.29, which was only a few pennies higher than the near-month futures close.
The West saw the largest drops, with Rockies and West Coast points dropping between 40 cents and $1.16.
One West Coast trader said he believes current fundamentals are pulling prices down. “Things were a little bit softer out there Friday,” he said. The weather and storage situation seems to paint a pretty bearish picture. We really noticed the weakness all of the way around. There is no cool weather to speak of over the next few days in the West, so I think that drove things lower.
Following the Energy Information Administration’s Thursday report that 70 Bcf was injected into underground natural gas storage for the week ended Oct. 17, the trader said the market’s perception of the storage situation has not changed. “No one is concerned about storage levels going into winter because we already have nearly 3.4 Tcf in the ground with at least two more injection reports expected.” He noted that the country’s mantra on gas in storage this year is that “there is plenty to go around.”
Plenty of gas to go around is a good thing especially as the winter chill is expected to move into a number of regions. AccuWeather.com said a frigid blast of air will spread across the Midwest on Sunday before moving into the Northeast early in the week. Southeast temperatures will be significantly cooler on Monday and Tuesday, while a storm develops along the leading edge of the cold near the New England coast. In the Northeast, snow is expected to be limited to the interior of northern New England, according to Henry Margusity, a meteorologist with AccuWeather.com.
The forecasting firm’s winter weather center reports that the arctic winds blowing over the warm water of the Great Lakes will trigger the first significant lake-effect snow event of the season. Bands of lake effect snow and blinding squalls will develop on Sunday downwind of the upper Great Lakes before developing over the lower lakes on Monday and Tuesday.
The cash market is also still dealing with slow-to-return Gulf of Mexico production following hurricanes Gustav and Ike during the first week of September. According to a Minerals Management Service update on Thursday, 10.4% of the normally 694 manned platforms in the Gulf are still evacuated. Operators’ reports also reveal that 34.5% of the Gulf’s estimated 7.4 Bcf/d in natural gas production is still shut in, while 32.3% of the 1.3 million b/d of oil production is still off-line.
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