The Massachusetts Department of Telecommunications and Energy(DTE) sent an order (File # 98-32-B) last Wednesday to all 10 stategas utilities, requiring them to deregulate service to residentialcustomers by 2004. The order directed gas utilities to work withmarketers on planning for a competitive market during the five-yeartransition. After the first three years of the program, the DTEsaid it will review the situation to determine if additionalefforts are needed to help spur competition. Massachusettscommercial and industrial consumers have had gas customer choicesince 1993.
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The futures market was pressured lower Tuesday as sellers sentthe February contract tumbling back down to support clustered inthe $1.73-74 area. But once again the move failed to produce a newcontract low, which set off a short-covering rally that bid theprompt month higher just prior to the close. February settled at$1.817, a fraction of a penny off its high for the day and 2.1cents higher than last week’s closing price.
The American Gas Association sent out a confusing market signalyesterday, reporting 45 Bcf of withdrawals for the week ending Nov.13 but actually showing more gas in storage than was reported inlast week’s survey. The peculiar changes, the association said,resulted from 58 Bcf increase in the full level of working gas inthe country. The AGA said 20 of the more than 40 storage companiessurveyed reported increases in working gas capacity. The newestimated full level of working gas is 3,248 Bcf, which includes a29 Bcf increase in working gas capacity in the Producing Region, a21 Bcf rise in the Consuming Region East and an 8 Bcf increase inthe Consuming Region West.
A 14% increase in electric sales and the absence of $70 millionin merger-related costs (posted in 2Q97) sent Duke Energy earningsper share soaring 77% during the second quarter to 76 cents/share,well above analysts’ estimates. Duke reported earnings for commonstock of $274.4 million compared to $157.6 million in 2Q97.