Flat performances at the Southern California border and the Kern Delivery point in Arizona/Nevada were the only exceptions to cash prices continuing to rise across the board Tuesday. Forecasts of Wednesday lows in the 20s and 30s (and occasionally in the teens) from the Northeast through the Midwest and Upper Plains into the Rockies kept heating load at a relatively strong level for late March, and the cash market had extra support from the previous day’s 26.4-cent increase by April futures.
Tuesday’s overall gains ranged from a couple of pennies to about 40 cents. The largest upticks tended to be clustered in the Gulf Coast and Rockies and at Midwest and Northeast citygates.
A high-linepack OFO issued for Tuesday early that morning by SoCalGas (see Transportation Notes) had a chilling effect on Southern California border numbers. By contrast, the lack of an OFO by neighbor PG&E allowed prices to rise by about a quarter and 30 cents or so at Malin and the PG&E citygate, respectively, as inland Northern California locations were due to experiences lows in the low to mid 40s Wednesday.
Wednesday’s physical market will have further screen backing after April natural gas futures added another 9 cents to their value Tuesday, and vestiges of wintry weather will still be lingering Thursday across Canada and the northern third of the U.S. However, the Midcontinent is joining the South and most of the West outside the Rockies and Pacific Northwest in starting to exhibit signs that spring has indeed arrived. Highs around 70 degrees or greater are forecast for Wednesday from Atlanta in the Southeast to Oklahoma City in the Midcontinent, and in the desert Southwest Phoenix is due to peak in the mid 80s.
The West Coast is a little cooler than usual, with Los Angeles and San Diego expecting high temperatures in the mid 60s while San Francisco and Portland, OR, top out in the high 50s and mid to high 40s, respectively.
It was pretty quiet in daily trading, said a Midwest marketer. He doesn’t think the cash market is ready to give up this week’s rising streak quite yet, saying he expects prices to keep rising moderately Wednesday because of continued prior-day futures support and the fact that there will still be a fair amount of heating load in northern market areas.
The marketer perceived bidweek as getting off to a “pretty busy start.” At least he knew his company was fielding lots of calls Tuesday about April business.
The National Weather Service (NWS) forecast for the March 31-April 4 workweek calls for above-normal temperatures everywhere in an area from a strip along the eastern edge of California eastward to the southern end of Illinois and the Mississippi-Alabama border. It predicts below-normal readings in the Northeast as far south as northern New Jersey and the northeast corner of Pennsylvania, and in all of Washington state along with most of Oregon.
Analysts at Barclays Capital Research said in a market commentary issued Tuesday morning, “With continued cold temperature locked into the outlook for the Midwest and Northeast states well into April, the fact that this week is the last full week of injection season (traditionally defined [as] concluding at the end of March) provides little evidence that the injection season will begin fast or furious. This week’s storage report…will show a slow pace of withdrawal, but it is possible that withdrawals for some parts of the U.S. will persist into the next month. Last week’s report of a net weekly injection for the Western [region] will likely be reversed.”
Stephen Smith of Stephen Smith Energy Associates said he expects a storage withdrawal of 34 Bcf to be reported for the week ended March 21.
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