Despite the 16.8-cent drop in January natural gas futures prices on Friday, cash market action was largely mixed on Monday with most points recording small gains or declines. However, the Northeast, fresh off of enduring a nor’easter over the weekend, saw a number of key points climb in excess of $1 over Friday’s average.
Continuing Northeast winter storms sparked mostly gains in that region; the Rockies were quiet, and a West Coast warm-up was met with mixed results. Prices at the PG&E Citygate stayed pretty stable most of the morning.
“Some western points were up a little and others were a little down,” said one West Coast trader. “For the most part, price fluctuation was in a pretty narrow range. We weren’t getting any of the spreads on the day because there wasn’t much movement. There really was not much incentive out there for us to do much. I think a lot of people were seeing those same economics.”
Looking at the weather picture out West, the trader said changing temperatures are playing a role. “It is warming up a little bit on the West Coast right now, so we are looking at normal to slightly above-normal temperatures,” he said. “As a result, a lot of the loads have come off. Pipelines had been packed recently, but after last weekend things have warmed up and normal pipeline operating conditions are back. Storage levels also remain fine, so all things considered, there is not a whole lot of incentive to take this thing in one direction or the other.”
Out East, there was a much different story as the Northeast region mostly recorded gains on Monday, with some points averaging more than $1 more than on Friday. Algonquin Citygate showed one of the largest gains, jumping $2.79 to average just more than $20. Transco Zone 6 NY was quoted anywhere between $16.50 to $24, but it ended up averaging $21.18, up $1.08 from Friday’s average. Transco Zone 6 non NY saw quotes between $9.50 and $14.50 and ended up averaging $11.40, up $1.48.
“Transco non-NY was down around $10 and got up to $12 before coming back in the end to around eleven-and-a-half dollars,” said a Northeast utility trader. “Both Transco markets were strong and I don’t know why. Yes it is cold, but it is the winter. I am kind of surprised why prices are so high…so early. It’s not like we are late in the winter and it is still very cold. Storage remains full, so I really can’t explain this strength.”
The trader said that with forecasters still calling for a warm-up into January, it will be interesting to see if the forecasts prove true and how the market reacts. “We will have to wait and see whether we get some warmth in here,” the trader said. “I think a warm-up could put some downward pressure on prices.”
According to the National Weather Service’s (NWS) latest near-term forecasts, everything appears to still be pointing toward a lasting warm-up early next week for a majority of the country. The NWS six- to 10-day outlook, which covers Dec. 23-27, calls for temperatures to be above normal from the Northeast to the Northwest, the Mid-Atlantic and the Carolinas west through Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska. California, Nevada and Utah are expected to be colder than normal and the rest of the country is expected experience normal conditions for this time of year.
The warm-up becomes even more prevalent in the agency’s eight- to 14-day outlook for Dec. 25-31. A vast majority of the country is expected to record above-normal temperatures with the exception of Florida, Georgia, Arizona, California, Oregon and parts of Washington, Idaho, Wyoming and Nevada, which are expected to experience normal temperatures. An isolated circle of territory that is centered on the Idaho, Nevada and Utah border is expected to record below-normal temperatures during the period.
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