Cash gas prices overall on average gained 6 cents Monday, but if the monster gains on Iroquois and Tennessee in the Northeast are factored out, the gains come in at a mere penny. The Midwest, Great Lakes were strong, while eastern points were little changed. Strong eastern power prices helped lend a solid undertone to New York and New England gains.
The real news of the day was being made in the natural gas futures arena, where storm hype helped boost the April contract by 7.3 cents to $3.529, the highest close for a front-month contract since late January.
Weather forecasters were adjusting their data to determine if cold and snow were likely to hit New England. Although snow and cold is forecast next day temperatures are near normal.
“There is still a chance that significant snow reaches the New York City metropolitan area and Boston with the storm situation at midweek,” said AccuWeather.com meteorologist Alex Sosnowski.
“It’s nail-biting time for meteorologists as to how a storm that is currently tracking southeastward from the Midwest will behave. Odds favor most of the snow Wednesday through Thursday staying south of a line from northern New Jersey and New York City to Boston. However, there is a one-in-three chance the storm strengthens quickly enough upon reaching the coast Wednesday night to turn its track northeastward, rather than straight out to sea.”
Monday’s high in Boston of 41 is expected to rise to 44 on Tuesday and 42 on Wednesday. The normal high in Boston is 42. New Haven CT’s Monday high of 43 is anticipated to rise to 44 Tuesday. The seasonal high in New Haven is 44.
Next-day power added luster to the bullish cause. IntercontinentalExchange reported that power for next day delivery into the New England Power Pool’s Massachusetts Hub rose $8.66 to $55.36/MWh and Tuesday peak power into the New York Independent System Operator’s Zone A market area rose $7.49 to $41.00/MWh. At PJM West next-day power eased $2.00 to $42.00.
Quotes at Algonquin Citygate rose $1.55 to $6.52 and deliveries into Iroquois Waddington gained 24 cents to $4.85. On Tennessee Zone 6 200 L gas was seen at $6.40, up $1.42.
Farther south deliveries on Tetco M-3 fell 2 cents to $3.77 and gas on Dominion rose a penny to $3.62. Deliveries into New York City on Transco Zone 6 were flat at $3.87.
Mike DeVooght, president of DEVO Capital Management, a Colorado-based trading and risk management firm, sees the futures market under some pressure. “Cold weather and numerous snow storms were enough to break the short-term downtrend. The residual snow coverage should give a boost to heat demand and provide a little support to the gas market. Unfortunately, a little cold and snow will not change the big picture for the gas market.
“We could see a late-winter rally, but it will be difficult to hold the gains as we approach spring. On a trade basis, we continue to look for rallies in the summer strip (any months that trade above $3.75) as an opportunity to add to our short positions,” he said in a weekly note to clients.
DeVooght counsels trading and end-user accounts to stand aside, but producers and those with exposure to lower prices should “sell any summer months above $3.75-3.95 (light position),” he said.
Colder than normal temperatures helped push April futures on Monday to the highest front-month close since late January.
While the April contract logged the highest close of a spot contract in approximately a month and a half, at least one analyst said he believes the latest round of cold could spark prices even higher.
“The natural gas market is modestly higher on updated weather forecasts that will extend the run of supportive, above-average storage withdrawals through the week ending March 22,” said Tim Evans, an analyst with Citi Futures Perspective in New York. Temperatures for this week and next week also look slightly cooler than they did on Friday.”
Evans noted that any price run higher would be a timing event as spring is right around the corner.
“As we’ve been noting, natural gas has a chance to test higher, perhaps to the $3.70-3.80 range, as long as cooler than normal temperatures persist, but will become vulnerable on the downside once spring arrives.”
Addison Armstrong of Tradition Energy sees the market complexion of price drivers shifting from primarily weather-driven outlooks to a combination of weather and expected high production along with slumping shoulder season demand. “After cresting to a one-month high at the end of February, gas prices have inched lower as the traders shrug off the remaining weeks of this winter’s heating demands while shifting attention to the near-record production levels and the fast-approaching start of the shoulder season,” he said. “Weather forecasts are expected to fluctuate in the coming weeks, with below- to well below-normal temperatures expected across much of the East in the next five days, followed by a shift to normal to above-normal temperatures in the six-10 forecast period and a slight shift cooler to near normal temperatures in the 11-15 day forecast period.”
In its morning six- to 10-day outlook, WSI Corp. said, “Today’s forecast is similar to yesterdays, however slightly cooler over the interior western U.S., whereas slightly warmer over the eastern U.S.”
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