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Most Cash Market Points Rise on Spreading Cold
The November aftermarket closed out Tuesday much as it spent virtually all of the month — with spot prices at dollar-plus deficits to first-of-month indexes at nearly all points (Questar and NIT [NOVA Inventory Transfer] were the exceptions). The spread of winter-like weather had most points on the rise, although flat to lower numbers were scattered here and there.
Most of the gains were in double digits in ranging from about a nickel to 85 cents or so. Not counting flat averages, losses ran from a little under a nickel to about 30 cents.
The Northeast had gotten a reprieve while blizzard or near-blizzard conditions raged earlier in the week across much of the Midwest, Great Plains and northern West earlier this week, but a cold front was due to drag the Northeast back into the pre-winter buildup Wednesday. However, temperatures will stay relatively moderate, near seasonal norms, across most of the southern third of the U.S. Western Canada will be catching some severe cold, while Eastern Canada will have a milder day in comparison.
“It was about time” for a little winter to get here, said a Midwestern marketer, who added that his area had a “gorgeous weekend” before it turned much colder Monday. Based on continuing cold weather and Tuesday’s screen gain of just over a dime, he expects daily prices for the opening of the December aftermarket will be at least 20-30 cents higher Wednesday. The market should remain generally firm for at least another week or so, he said, because “anything out through six to 10 days looks pretty cold across most of the country except in the Southwest.”
As if in agreement with the marketer, the National Weather Service has a fairly bullish outlook for gas prices in its forecast for the Dec. 5-9 workweek. It predicts below normal temperatures everywhere except Maine east of a line running southeastward from central Montana through the western ends of Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma (excluding the Panhandle) into North Texas and Southeast Texas. Above normal readings are forecast everywhere west and south of a line curving southeastward along Oregon’s northern border through southern Idaho and the central Rockies before vertically bisecting New Mexico.
Expectations that the first substantial pull from storage in the fledgling withdrawal season will be reported Thursday could help fuel bullish feelings. For example, Citigroup analyst Kyle Cooper said his final estimation for the week ending Nov. 25 calls for a draw of 51-61 Bcf (this would follow the previous week’s report of only 8 Bcf being withdrawn).
A Northeast trader said the weather is not getting “super-cold” in his region, but grant that “it’s a moderately bullish forecast.” There was almost nothing left to do in December business, he said, perceiving that most traders had pretty much finished up Monday. He called it a “very anemic bidweek,” and said index declines should be in multi-dollar amounts.
That was borne out by the screen. The December settlement of $11.180 was $2.652 below where the November screen had closed out. Several sources have indicated that they see index drops approaching $3.
For a Midcontinent trader, “bidweek has been nonexistent” and “boring.” He said he worked on one deal for 40 MMcf/d at the Chicago citygate on Tuesday of last week, “and it took all day to get the [NGI] index position cleared.”
An indicator of the severe winter weather that has been sweeping the Pacific Northwest came from Northwest Pipeline. As if to assure potential doubters, Northwest said the Seattle forecast for Tuesday called for “Rain & Snow (yes, snow).” The pipeline’s bulletin board posts each morning the daily forecast for four key cities in its market area: Boise, Portland, Seattle and Spokane.
A day before its official end, the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season upped the ante once again for any future would-be record-setting seasons. Tropical Storm (TS) Epsilon grabbed the title of the year’s 26th named storm, but like predecessor TS Delta it is highly unlikely to have any gas market significance. Epsilon was moving westward about 800 miles east of Bermuda Tuesday afternoon, the National Hurricane Center said, but was expected to make a U-turn before Thursday morning and head back to the east-northeast. (In most circumstances a 26th name means all of the letters of the Roman alphabet would be used up, but since the hurricane-naming process shuns names beginning with Q, U, X, Y and Z, we are now five-deep into the Greek alphabet.)
Gulf of Mexico (GOM) shut-ins finally slipped below the 3 Bcf/d level for the first time since Hurricane Katrina began this season’s devastation of offshore production in late August. Based on reports from 54 companies, Minerals Management Service said remaining outages stood at 2,993.50 MMcf/d Tuesday. However, that was still a relatively small gain of only 66.48 MMcf/d from the day before.
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