After a 25-minute delay in which bagpipes played and traders listened to the reading of the 2,801 names of people that perished a few blocks away one year ago, the natural gas futures market opened solemnly Wednesday as market-watchers and traders went through the motions, but clearly had their minds on things other than the future price of hydrocarbons.

The October contract finished 10.6 cents lower at $3.250. Estimated volume was very light, with only 52,442 contracts changing hands.

“It was like we were in a cloud,” said local trader Eric Bolling. “The phones were ringing with people wanting to know when the market was opening. We just told people to call back. It was really weird.” Nymex had announced a staggered opening which would have had natural gas commence open-outcry trading at 11 a.m. EDT. However, when it became apparent that the reading of the names (which began at 8:46 a.m.), would not be completed, the decision was made to push back the opening. Only after the bagpipe processional had played Amazing Grace and God Bless America and the reading of the names was completed, did the energy markets open.

Looking ahead, traders will have their first opportunity to refocus on the market Thursday morning when fresh storage data is released. Just as it was when the American Gas Association released the storage figures at 2 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, the 10:30 Energy Information Administration storage report has increased in popularity lately as traders use the volatility created by the data to make a quick profit. Last week the volatility favored bulls, who rode the buying wave for a 14.9-cent advance on the day. The Thursday prior, however, it was the bears that awoke following the report, pressing the prompt month down 15.3 cents.

Expectations ahead of the report are centered on a 65-75 Bcf build, which would equal or exceed the 65 Bcf injection from a week ago, while falling well short of last year’s 97 Bcf refill.

In daily technicals, October has a pivot point at $3.30, says Bolling. “If we can spend some time, maybe 5 or 6 days above that level, this thing could really mount a move toward recent highs. As long as we are below it, this market is susceptible to more selling. As long as crude stays strong, my bias remains to the upside.”

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