After trading within an extremely tight, 3-cent range for almostthe entire trading session Thursday, the January contract was hitwith a late sell-off, as bears took advantage of nearly-illiquid,pre-holiday trading conditions. No fresh news was seen to incitethe liquidation, leaving several traders to suggest it was anattempt to set a bearish tone for the January contract expirationTuesday. The prompt month finished down 4.5 cents at $2.399 amidlight estimated volume of 28,617.
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Due to extremely high storage inventory levels and continuedweather predictions at or above normal temperatures, Williams GasPipeline Central has been experiencing daily storage injectionsthat are substantially above contractual limits, especially onweekends, the pipeline said. Shippers under TSS and FSS rateschedules are required to adhere to their maximum daily injectionquantity and their defined contractual maximum storage quantities.Due to warmer-than-normal weather forecasts, shippers and pointoperators will need to decrease corresponding supplies to matchdeliveries. During this time, the pipeline will not acceptimbalance payback or banking of gas. If corrective action is nottake, an operational flow order may be necessary effective gas daySaturday.
Peoples Energy said it was “extremely disappointed” in orders byIllinois Commerce Commission (ICC) that would sharply reduce thegas rates the LDC and affiliate North Shore Gas could charge theircustomers under fixed-price plans filed last fall. The utilitiessaid they cannot accept the ICC rulings and informed the agencythat they will remain instead under their existing pricingstructure.
The natural gas utility industry may be small when compared toother investment opportunities, but it’s still an extremelyattractive stock play – especially for the small- to medium-sizedinvestor, said a representative of the American Gas Association(AGA) last week.
With a little holiday cheer, the American Gas Association handedout an extremely optimistic 1999 gas consumption forecast last weekas a gift to those whose spirits may be down with gas demand thisChristmas season. The association told those attending its year-endreview conference in Washington, D.C. to expect 5% growth inconsumption in 1999, led by a 13% increase in the residentialsector and a 6.8% jump in the commercial sector. This rosy glow,however, would be fueled by normal weather, something that’s beenin short supply over the past year. Given above normal wintertemperatures next year (10% fewer heating degree days) and severalother negative factors such as $10/bbl oil prices, AGA expects an0.4% drop in gas demand.
The futures market continued lower on Friday capping off anextremely bearish week, which saw selling from all segments of themarket-trade, funds and locals. However, beleaguered bulls tooksome solace in a minor victory Friday afternoon when scaled downtrade buying lifted the December contract off its $2.125 low. Asmall but encouraging bounce ensued to recoup a portion of theweek’s losses. The December contract settled at $2.163 Friday, down5 cents for the day and 29.6 cents for the week.
The August Nymex contract fell 3.4 cents to $2.389 on Monday,amid a day when an extremely light 22,000 estimated total contractschanged hands. “We went from 123,000 contracts on Friday to almostnothing today. There just ain’t nothing going on,” a traderlamented. The fourth-of-July is typically among the lowest demandperiods of the year, and because the holiday falls so close to thefirst of the month, many cash market traders termed up incrementalgas through July 7th during bidweek, several sources reported. As aresult, the Merc pit lacked solid participation from commercials,and a broker expects that to continue throughout the week.
The Energy Information Administration continues to be bearish ongas wellhead prices this year but expects prices to remain abovethe $2/Mcf mark because of the possibility that temperatures willbe higher than normal this summer and coal delivery problems maypersist in Texas. In its May Short Term Energy Outlook, the EIAsaid it expects wellhead prices to average $2.15/Mcf this year,down 3.6% from the $2.23/Mcf average in 1997.
Florida Gas Transmission said Thursday it was experiencing”extremely high” linepack and that Operational Flow Orders would beissued to customers taking less than scheduled volumes. Otheroperational tools such as an Alert Day notice were also beingconsidered, the pipeline said.