For the second day in a row Tuesday, natural gas futuresreceived a strong boost in prices from short-covering activity dueto tropical storm concerns in the Gulf of Mexico. Earl became thefifth named storm in the 1998 Atlantic hurricane season yesterdaywith sustained winds of 60 miles per hour. As of 5:00 P.M. EST Tuesday, Earl was located 240 miles South Southwest of New Orleansand moving toward the Northeast at 12 mph. The October contractopened strong and wasted little time in trending higher before anafternoon sell-off left the market with a modest 3.4 cent gainbefore the closing bell. Estimated volume was a robust 82,172.
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For a change the cash market demonstrated some independence fromthe futures screen influence Wednesday. Even as futures followedTuesday’s downtick of nearly 6 cents with an even bigger diveyesterday, quotes at nearly all non-Western points either held flator managed to tack on up to 3-4 cents. This ran contrary to what anumber of traders had expected.
The futures market rebounded Friday, recapturing some of thelosses registered earlier in the week as light position squaringearly in the day gave way to moderated short-covering ahead of theweekend. That left the August contract above the critical $2.00level, closing up 8.3 cents at $2.031.
Duke Energy Transport and Trading signed a letter of intent tobuy some of Dynegy’s U.S. crude oil transportation and marketingoperations for $50 to $55 million pre-tax subject to terms of theagreement. The sale is expected to close by the end of the thirdquarter.
A last-minute protest by Scana Energy Marketing to a requestedwaiver by Atlanta Gas Light to allow assignment of some of itsupstream pipeline capacity as part of the Georgia unbundling planmay have been a factor in derailing FERC action last week.
Cash prices were coming down by as much as a dime or more insome cases Thursday, as was widely expected, and many sourcespredict more of the same for the holiday weekend. A moderatingweather trend in hot areas and coolness in the West, Midwest andNortheast certainly aren’t conducive to any market rally attempts,one trader said. And then there was the futures screen’sleadership, or lack thereof, a marketer said. Northeast market-areaprices were down 3-4 cents at first, then dropped another 3 centsafter seeing the screen’s example, he said. He was getting lateTransco Zone 6 (non-NYC) offers at $2.34 after having bought at$2.36-37.
Providing retail gas customers a choice of suppliers via theInternet is a distant hope of some visionaries in the gas industry,but pioneers at Bay State Gas already have made it happen. TheMassachusetts distributor has upgraded its interactive web site toallow customers to shop for suppliers competing in its supplierchoice pilot program and to provide an easy method for suppliers toenroll new customers and check their daily pooling requirements.The web site also offers customers the option of checking their gasusage, reviewing their bills, and buying additional products andservices.
A California green power marketer has apparently fallen out offavor with at least some of its investors as evidenced by a classaction filed in the U.S. District Court in California on behalf ofKeystone Energy Services shareholders who acquired shares betweenNov. 14, 1997 and Feb. 3.
May 1 is known as May Day, celebrated as a springtime festivalin some countries, according to Webster’s. But Friday must haveseemed like “Mayday” (international distress call) to many tradersas they watched cash prices crumble to levels that were virtuallyunimaginable last month. A few Gulf Coast points were sinking below$2 in widely ranging quotes.