Trading at the New York Mercantile Exchange for the month ofFebruary has featured tight but choppy ranges punctuated by smalldecreases when sellers slightly outnumbered the buyers in themarket. And yesterday’s expiration-day session was simply amicrocosm of that as the March contract was the focus of a fierce,and mostly balanced battle, which was ultimately decided by sellerslate in the day. The March contract concluded its reign as promptmonth with a 4.4-cent decline to settle at $1.666.
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A tight range and relatively quiet trading returned to thenatural gas futures pit on Monday following last Friday’s failedrally that briefly touched overhead resistance. And althoughyesterday’s highs did not approach the $1.875 notched last week,some traders felt the move was constructive for prices. Theprompt-March contract was limited to a 1.8-cent gain to finish at$1.818 for the day.
A casual observer of yesterday’s market would look at the tighttrading range, low volatility and unchanged settlement and concludeit was a quiet trading day at the New York Mercantile Exchangewhere neither bull nor bear prevailed. But beneath February’s4-cent trading range and $1.714 settlement price, a battle waswaged as commercial traders in opposing camps, unencumbered bylocals who have largely moved on to March dealings, trieddesperately to influence a move in their direction. And so, as asource from a mid-sized gas marketer lamented, “the big boys wereat it again.”
Diversity of supply sources, a transportation network thatblankets nearly the entire state of Florida and strong customerties will give Florida Gas Transmission (FGT) the edge over newprojects – such as Williams-Transco’s proposed Buccaneer Pipeline- that plan to enter its territory to cash in on the growinggeneration market, says FGT President Rockford G. Meyer.
Heavy air conditioning load and a tightening of supplyavailability not only generated a late rebound in bidweek pricesFriday but also pushed up last-of-May and early June aftermarketnumbers in nearly all Eastern, Gulf Coast and Midcontinent/Midwestmarkets. Waha and Permian Basin gas, supported by Texas andMidcontinent cooling demand, also was rising above index levels.But in the generally cool West, weekend and 1st-of-month swingprices tended to go down by a few cents.
Basis relationships have tightened by a remarkable degree inMarch, and Thursday’s continuing price strength in the West coupledwith drops of a nickel or so at points in the Gulf Coast,Midcontinent and Appalachia/Northeast brought the regions evencloser.