Staging a partial rebound from Friday’s 17.8-cent drop, October natural gas futures following the long Labor Day weekend gained back 6.6 cents to close Tuesday’s regular session at $3.938. The November contract enjoyed much the same ride by moving 5.3 cents higher to $4.043 following Friday’s 17.6-cent drubbing.

During the quiet trading session, the prompt-month contract made two mini-runs higher around 11:30 a.m. EDT and again just after 2 p.m. After reaching a high for the day of $3.950 just before 2:15 p.m., the October contract backed off a penny to close.

Citi Futures Perspective analyst Tim Evans said he believes the market is currently analyzing the production shut-ins from Tropical Storm Lee as well as the radar for what might be in store for the Gulf of Mexico over the remainder of the 2011 Atlantic hurricane season.

“The natural gas market looks to be consolidating in light-volume trade, still assessing whether the production losses associated with Tropical Storm Lee were sufficiently material to lift prices back toward $4 or beyond,” said Evans. “In our view, the cumulative loss of perhaps 6-8 Bcf is at least noteworthy, and with another possible system arising out of the Bay of Campeche, we could see further tropical storm activity in the Gulf of Mexico sooner rather than later.”

According to the National Hurricane Center (NHC), the system discussed by Evans was in the southern Gulf of Mexico Tuesday afternoon with a 30% chance of tropical cyclone formation. While the system was “beginning to show some signs of organization,” the NHC noted that “any additional development is anticipated to be slow.”

Tom Saal, vice president of Hencorp Futures in Miami, said that for traders, the month of September is known for many things.

“The market normally finds a low during the month of September. Also, the peak storm activity of the hurricane season historically occurs during the first part of the month and then lethargy sets in for traders,” Saal told NGI. “At that point, they start staring at the shoulder months dead ahead and really lose interest until they begin to gear up for the winter months. Beginning the thought process of becoming a buyer around these parts probably is not too bad of an idea.”

Traders have noted the continuing weakness in economic figures, but natural gas is able to maintain its often characteristic indifference.

Not only was there a weak employment report on Friday, but recent manufacturing data was also weak. Peter Beutel of Cameron Hanover, a Connecticut-based energy consulting firm, said, “Recent economic data suggest a weakening economy and the ISM [Institute for Supply Management] factory index fell to 50.6 in August, from 50.9 in July.” According to Beutel, if the reading comes in above 50 the economy is expanding, but in the case of Friday’s numbers “they are clearly not strong.

“The economic figures and temperature forecasts were enough to eclipse the closure of a third of gas-producing platforms in the U.S. Gulf on Friday because of Tropical Storm Lee. Traders still sold going into a long weekend with a storm raging, which is an amazing sign of weakness in gas.”

According to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, 2,205 MMcf/d, or 42% of the Gulf of Mexico’s natural gas production, was still shut in as of Tuesday afternoon (see related story).

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