May baseload prices were tanking on the last morning of tradingThursday, and May swing numbers for either the 1st only or 1st-4thwere “really pathetic,” as a Midcontinent marketer so delicatelyput it. The plunging June futures screen was an obvious drag oncash trading. The early weakness of the May aftermarket confoundedmany who in late April had been expecting incremental prices torise above bidweek levels.
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Despite an El Nino winter and lower gas liquids prices, NGCCorp. enjoyed a first quarter substantially better than one yearago. CEO Chuck Watson attributed the improvement to better gas andliquids marketing operations in the U.S. and the U.K.
Following a frenetic week of April trading featuring near20-cent price swings and unusually high volume in both futures andcash markets, Monday’s market exhibited a calmness that remindedtraders April is a shoulder month. But, regardless of the smalllosses and lack of excitement generated yesterday, prices are stillat their highest levels since the December bidweek and as much as80 cents above year ago levels.
The May Nymex contract nudged 2.1 cents lower to $2.535 Mondayamid a session marked by a relatively light total estimated volumefigure of just over 30,000 contracts. “Many traders are waiting fordirection from the cash market, and since that hardly moved today,it makes sense futures hardly budged either,” an analyst told GPI.
Overall movement of cash prices was lower Monday, but there wereconsiderable differences among markets as to the degree ofdownturn. The Gulf Coast, Appalachia and Rockies barely budged withvery few points falling more than a penny or two. TheMidcontinent/Midwest tended to occupy the middle ground-fieldprices were only off 2-3 cents, but declines at marketarea-oriented points such as Northern Natural-demarc, NGPL AmarilloMainline and Chicago citygates were more like a nickel or greater.The biggest losses of around a dime occurred at Northeastcitygates.
March prices, which had roared off to a strong start on Monday,filtered lower Tuesday leaving traders wondering if March wouldfollow the weather adage and trade out like a lamb. Cash priceswere slipping anywhere from a couple cents to nearly a dime Tuesdayin most markets. In doing so, many spot points achieved in Marchwhat they were unable to do the entire month of February: tradebelow index. Rockies gas, however, remained in high demand, immuneto the overall losses.
The April Nymex contract fell 2.9 cents to $2.292 on Monday,following the spot month’s failed attempt to clear a majorresistance level. “April was in a two hurdle race today, but ittripped on the second hurdle,” a trader told GPI. “On the one hand,April was able to break out of the symmetrical triangle formationby moving above $2.34. However, April immediately fell back once itfilled in the chart gap at $2.355. There were quite a few standingsell orders at that price, so it’s no wonder the contract fellback,” he said.
The April Nymex contract got off to a fast start Thursday byopening at $2.32 and quickly moving to $2.34. However, strongtechnical selling kicked in at that point, so much so that Aprilslid back to settle the day down 3.4 cents at $2.284.