Prices continued to soften Friday but except for some steepdrops in the West, the weekend declines were considerably smallerthan many traders had been expecting.
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Weekend prices were moderately higher in the East Friday but offa few cents at most western points as last week’s troublesome heatwave in California continued to subside. Nearly all areas wereseeing lower numbers in late trading, sources said.
The cash market was relatively quiet Monday, and for quite a fewtraders, dismayed by last week’s hypervolatility, that suited themjust fine. Points in the East tended to range from flat to about anickel or so higher, while the West was considerably stronger withadvances of about a dime or more in most cases.
As sources had predicted a day earlier, the downturn in cashprices got even steeper Thursday, primarily due to the big futuresdrop on the previous afternoon and what was considered by many tobe a rather bearish storage report. A gradual warming trend inseveral regions was not strong enough to prompt significant newcooling load for gas.
The cash market was mostly flat to a little lower Wednesday;most of the mild weakness was concentrated at Northeast and Midwestcitygates and in the Gulf Coast and Midcontinent.
Cash quotes again moved higher Monday but mostly in smallamounts of less than a nickel, reacting to new strength in the gas,crude oil and heating oil futures contracts and getting some extrasupport from colder weather in major northern market areas.
With little in the way of fresh news, natural gas futures limpedmostly sideways yesterday as cautious summer bulls matched upnearly perfectly with March bears. In fact, the only notablefeature in Thursday’s session was a rash of market-on-close buying,which firmed prices at the end. The March contract advanced 1.9cents to finish at $2.549 on its penultimate trading day.
Natural gas futures chopped lower yesterday in a tight, mostlyfeatureless session as traders continued to factor in the nowimminent threat of warming weather for much of the nation. Wideningits discount to outer months, the March contract was the hardesthit by the sell-off, tumbling 2.9 cents to finish at $2.541.Estimated volume was very modest, with just 44,670 contractschanging hands.
The swing trading pattern immediately following Christmas didn’tseem very much different from the days preceding the holiday: agenerally softer market, with declines of up to a dime Monday atmost points, arrayed against conspicuously higher prices fordeliveries into the New York City area. One thing that did change,however, was generally flat numbers for the Rockies and California,markets that had participated in the overall weakness last week.
This week’s bull market did come to an end Thursday as generallyexpected, but there was only a slight amount of price retrenchmentprimarily because of a show of strength by January futures. Eventhough cash traders were starting to discount the most recent coldweather forecasts, people in the Nymex pit apparently were stillgiving them credence. Most points were flat to 2-3 cents down, withseveral scattered ones achieving small gains. Only a few pointsfell by as much as a nickel or so.