Prices rebounded at virtually all points Thursday due to gradually rebuilding cooling load after a midweek cooldown in several areas and strong prior-day screen support.
Gulf Coast and Northeast gains tended to be smallest among an overall upturn that ranged from about a dime to 60 cents.
The Energy Information Administration storage report fell short of prior expectations centered around the high 80s Bcf by estimating a storage build of 80 Bcf for the week ending May 26. For a while Nymex traders gave the report bullish treatment, pushing the July natural gas screen more than 30 cents higher at one point afterward. But weakness in the petroleum futures products, induced by bearish inventory reports that morning (released a day later than normal because of the holiday), helped pull the gas contract back into negative territory near closing before a late rebound created a daily gain of 6.4 cents.
Northeast citygates managed moderate increases despite a front due to keep regional temperatures on a downswing prior to the weekend. And cooling load in the South, while still substantial, is being kept subdued by strong thunderstorm activity and a cold front moving into the northern Gulf Coast and Southeast Friday and Saturday, The Weather Channel (TWC) said.
It is the central and western U.S. where much of the new power generation load helped support gas prices. Date-specific record highs are possible in the Plains, according to TWC, as temperatures in the 90s become increasingly prevalent Friday and into the weekend. Thermometer levels are expected to be five to 20 degrees above normal Friday in the interior West, and Phoenix will be close to record highs Friday and Saturday.
In rising nearly half a dollar, the Southern California border again defied what should have been the highly bearish effect of SoCalGas extending a high-linepack OFO into its tenth Friday.
“Oklahoma is hot, so a lot of gas was staying home,” said a Midcontinent producer. Intrastate pipes siphoned off some supply that otherwise would have gone into the interstates, he said. He noted that the storage number was below expectations but still constituted a pretty solid build. He thought cash prices would be up a little Friday, based on returning air conditioning demand load and the screen’s nickel-plus gain Thursday.
The producer expects futures to keep providing moderate support for the cash market by going up more often than down as summer heat levels continue to rise. “One hurricane scare and it [screen] will be up to $10,” he predicted, although a lot of people will be crying “Hype!” Also, he expects that June first-of-month indexes may very well become the lowest of the year.
Another Midcontinent producer also anticipated price upticks Friday, although the weekend effect of lower industrial load should keep them modest, he said. He didn’t notice any significant increase in supply calls Thursday from power generators, but said maybe those will rise for the weekend.
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