A casual observer of yesterday’s market would look at the tighttrading range, low volatility and unchanged settlement and concludeit was a quiet trading day at the New York Mercantile Exchangewhere neither bull nor bear prevailed. But beneath February’s4-cent trading range and $1.714 settlement price, a battle waswaged as commercial traders in opposing camps, unencumbered bylocals who have largely moved on to March dealings, trieddesperately to influence a move in their direction. And so, as asource from a mid-sized gas marketer lamented, “the big boys wereat it again.”

Another trader agreed, adding the battle was not only confinedto the futures market. “There was a big seller at the [Henry] Hubtoday at the $1.70-71 level intent on inducing a lower Februarysettlement price on the second day of a three day [closing period].I don’t think I have ever seen such uniform matching of buying andselling during that period before.” Daily GPI’s Henry Hub averagefor today is a $1.72, fractionally higher than yesterday’s Februarysettlement.

And looking ahead, Tom Saal of Miami-based Pioneer Futures feelsit will be the flow of orders today at Nymex that ultimatelydecides the price direction. “This market is fairly priced rightnow in both cash and futures markets. [Wednesday’s] settlement willbe a product of the peoples’ decision to make or take delivery andthe resultant short or long liquidations that follow.” And althoughhe did not indicate which direction that would be, he said to watchout for an early flurry of buying or selling. “Because once theinitial surge is met, the market is often susceptible to reverse tothe other direction in a hurry,” Saal warned.

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