The cash market showed little apparent rhyme or reason Tuesday as September swing trading opened with a hodgepodge of mixed price movement that nevertheless favored the upside in a majority of cases. Prices may have found more weather-related load than expected, and the screen’s gain of nearly a nickel Monday may have played a part.
Most of the softness was in the Gulf Coast, where quotes fell by as much as nearly 20 cents. Many other points were flat to up by a nickel, but western gains that were strongest in the Rockies saw increases of up to about 15 cents.
Although the consensus seems to remain that Hurricane Frances likely will strike in the South Atlantic area, some bullish feeling may have derived from the fact that there is still a chance of it entering the Gulf of Mexico. As one source pointed out, though, that would not be a market-impacting event until around the beginning of next week.
With 140 mph winds, Frances achieved Category 4 hurricane status Tuesday. It was heading for the Bahamas, while lashing other Caribbean islands along the way. The Weather Channel did not expect Frances to reach the Bahamas until Thursday or Friday, however. What the National Hurricane Center called “the distinct eye” of the storm was about 145 miles north of San Juan, Puerto Rico at 5 p.m. AST. Its forward speed toward the west had increased to nearly 17 mph, NHC said, with a turn to the west-northwest expected Tuesday night.
A Northeast trader admitted to being “a little bit surprised” by the strength of cash numbers. A lot of people may be catching up from going short into the September aftermarket, he said. Also, there might have been a little bit more power generation load than expected, he said, noting that it’s hard to keep track of which power plants may be experiencing unscheduled outages. Don’t expect the firm market to continue, he went on; prices should soften over the next couple of days because the rejuvenated Tropical Storm Gaston “will be keeping us cooler in the Northeast.” He observed that New England citygates were getting near parity with Transco Zone 6 and Texas Eastern M-3 starting out in September, after having seen moderate premiums in late August.
A Midwest marketer agreed that “prices will definitely will give back some ground Wednesday, despite it being cool Tuesday in the Midwest but due to warm up to the mid 80s in the next couple of days. He said there was nothing surprising about bidweek because the big decline in futures “told us indexes would be way down.” The marketer reported “making a strong case to clients” for holding out on locking in winter term supplies. He may pick up some in late October just before the storage injection season ends, but if the market is looking as weak as he expects then, “we may wait into November.”
One hint of the relative western price strength came from Kern River reporting normal linepack systemwide again, while Westcoast continued to encourage packing of its system with its imbalance tolerance range. High heat warnings are in effect for parts of the desert Southwest and lower Rockies, The Weather Channel said.
The National Weather Service predicts normal temperatures in most of the U.S. during the Sept. 6-10 workweek, with the deviations mostly in the corners. Its forecast calls for above normal readings in the Northeast and in California along with all but the northeast corners of Nevada and Arizona. Below normal temperatures are expected throughout the Southeast except in coastal Louisiana and the southern third of the Florida peninsula; they are also due in the Upper Plains area from western Montana through central Minnesota.
Two analysts weighed in with their estimations for the storage injection to be announced for the week ended Aug. 27: Thomas Driscoll of Lehman Brothers is calling for 75 Bcf, while Citigroup’s Kyle Cooper looks for a bigger build in the range of 76-86 Bcf.
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