Although often on different sides of the fence at FERC and onCapitol Hill, major producers have rallied to defend interstate gaspipelines against allegations that painted them and other pipes asticking “time bombs.”
Articles from Surprise
To the surprise of absolutely no one, cash prices plunged acrossthe board Tuesday. It was an easy call to make considering theresidual effect of Monday afternoon’s steep screen dive and warmingweather trends that are likely to get even warmer next week,sources said.
While yesterday’s price weakness did not surprise many traders,the size of some of the declines exceeded expectations. Near recordhigh temperatures caused major drops in the Midcontinent, andforecasts of hot weather combined with a dropping futures screen toweaken the Northeast, Gulf Coast and western markets.
Despite stronger cash prices and the surprise formation of a newtropical system in the Gulf of Mexico over the weekend, natural gasfutures prices tumbled lower yesterday as traders continued toliquidate long positions. The October contract was the hardest hit,slipping 8.9 cents to finish at $2.519. With many Nymex localsobserving the Jewish Holiday Yom Kippur, estimated volume was heldto an extremely light 53,174 contracts.
It didn’t surprise any traders when the cash market was theteensiest bit softer Wednesday. What did prompt some expressions ofamazement was that prices held up as strongly as they did. Betweena falling futures screen and overall weaker demand fundamentals, itseemed that prices should have dropped at least a nickel or more,one source said. Instead, few points were down more than a coupleof pennies, and some registered flat showings. Northern NaturalGas, serving a market area with near-winter-like chill, evenmanaged small gains.
After a $297 million net loss in 1998, it should come as nosurprise that Baker Hughes is cutting capital spending this yearand will not be out shopping for assets or new combinations likemany other industry companies. Drilling activity continues to plumbnew depths (figuratively, not literally), reaching a record lowlast week with 498 rotary rigs operating in the U.S.
In a surprise move announced Monday CMS Energy reached southfrom its Michigan distribution base to buy the Panhandle Easternand Trunkline Gas pipeline companies — pipes, storage and LNGterminal — from Duke Energy, solidifying its own supply line tothe Midcontinent and Gulf.
Traders’ opinions have varied as to the direction the futuresmarket would take this week, and so it came as no surprise Mondaywhen it tested both the upside and the downside in early trading.But, when selling dried up below the $2.10 level, the Novembercontract was free to migrate higher to settle at $2.143.
Fueled by Tuesday afternoon advances, the November contractraced out to a strong start on Wednesday. But the rally becameshort-lived when it met with a wall of selling in the mid-teens,leaving the market to finish lower at the closing bell. TheNovember contract settled at $2.041, a 4.3 cent decline for theday.