Cash prices overall surged 7 cents higher on average Wednesday as monster gains posted at Northeast locations were more than able to offset a slumping Midcontinent. At the close of futures trading December had inched higher by one tenth of a cent to $3.692 and January had eased four tenths of a cent to $3.820. December crude oil gained 56 cents to $86.24/bbl.

In the Northeast healthy gains in expected power loads and prices helped propel cash prices higher. The New England Power Pool (Nepool) reported that it expected forecast peak power loads Wednesday of 15,410 MW to increase to 16,340 MW Thursday.

Next-day power prices also increased. IntercontinentalExchange reported that next-day Nepool day-ahead peak locational marginal prices jumped by $6.97 to $42.22/MWh and at the PJM (Pennsylvania-New Jersey-Maryland) West Hub real-time peak power for Thursday delivery was higher by $4.56 to $47.84/MWh. forecast that the high in Boston Wednesday would ease to 56 degrees Thursday before rising to 58 on Friday. The normal high in Boston is 57 this time of year. New York City’s high of 53 Wednesday was anticipated to reach 54 on Thursday and 56 by Friday. The seasonal high in New York is 59.

Quotes on Algonquin Citygate jumped 56 cents to $4.18 and deliveries to Tennessee Zone 6 200 L vaulted 70 cents to $4.41. Gas destined for Iroquois Waddington gained 26 cents to $4.30.

Farther south prices were also firm. Deliveries to Transco Zone 6 New York rose 25 cents to $3.74 and Thursday gas on Tetco M-3 added 16 cents to $3.67. Parcels on Dominion added 9 cents to $3.52.

In the Midcontinent producers were trying to find a home for stranded volumes. “We are just scratching our heads. There is no demand for natural gas and gas on Ozark Pipeline is stranded. You can’t take it to the Gulf Coast or to NGPL,” said a Midcontinent producer. “Ozark is a pipeline in eastern Oklahoma and it goes to the Gulf Coast and on into Chicago, but you can’t take it there. Same thing with ONG (Oklahoma Natural Gas). They aren’t allowing any new gas to come in. We can’t take gas into ONG or NGPL because NGPL has a problem. I’m sure storage is almost full, but it’s more of a pipeline issue.”

The producer added that there was a “double whammy” of nearly full storage and capacity constraints. “We scramble every day to do something with the gas.”

Quotes on ANR SW were seen down by 11 cents to $3.40 and deliveries to NGPL Amarillo were off by 8 cents to $3.67. Thursday parcels on NGPL Mid-Continent Pool were lower by 3 cents to $3.45 and on Panhandle Eastern next-day gas was down a penny to $3.45. OGT was quoted 2 cents higher at $3.44.

California points were mostly higher. At Malin Thursday gas was 4 cents lower at $3.55 and at the PG&E Citygates gas was down a penny at $3.93. SoCal Citygate buyers saw their prices higher by 4 cents to $3.82 and deliveries to SoCal Border points added 6 cents to $3.70. On El Paso S Mainline next-day gas gained a nickel to $3.74.

Traders and analysts will be putting the final touches on their estimates of winter storage with Thursday’s Energy Information Administration inventory figures. All indications are that the record 3,852 Bcf stored last year will be exceeded handily this season. Last year 82 Bcf was injected and the five-year average stands at 57 Bcf. Inventories currently stand at 3,843 Bcf. Analysts at United-ICAP estimate a fill of 66 Bcf, a Reuters poll shows an average 67 Bcf, and Bentek Energy calculates a build of 68 Bcf.

Top traders see the market working another dime lower. Jim Ritterbusch of Ritterbusch and Associates suggests “downside price risk to about the $3.60 area per nearby futures. The market appears to be having some difficulty in discounting the impact of the East Coast power outages that could reportedly last more than a week in some regions.

“It would appear that this loss of [power generation-] related demand for natural gas has clearly outweighed the effects of some nuclear outages and some cooler East Coast temperatures that have been prompted by the storm. However, broad-based institutional selling interest in this market is still being restricted by evolving market dynamics, such as declining year-over-year production gains and a long-standing dramatic contraction in the year-over-year supply surplus,” he said in morning comments to clients.

In a report from DEVO Capital, meterologist John Dee sees only modest increments in energy usage in the 10-day period. “The remnants of Sandy are weakening significantly and will lift north in the next day or so. The outlook sees temps across most of the U.S. east of the Mississippi River to remain at levels cool enough to produce some slightly stronger than average demands for heat but nothing overly dramatic,” he said in a morning report.

“Temps in the West will be running above average and will generate some moderate cooling demands for the Southwest U.S., but nothing too major there. As we work through next week, the upper air pattern looks to flatten out, which will allow temps to settle in toward seasonable levels, which at that time of the year means no strong demands for heating or cooling energy.”

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