It’s a huge understatement to say that Tuesday’s market was rather featureless. Try virtually non-existent instead, which was to be expected on Christmas Eve.
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In a saga that could be renamed “The Incredible Shrinking Company,” Enron Corp. told the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in a filing last week that up to 38% of the total assets it listed when it filed for bankruptcy — $24 billion in assets and derivative values — should be erased because of “possible accounting errors or irregularities” that overstated the company’s value. The company also warned of a possible $8-10 billion reduction to unwind some of its derivatives contracts.
“No storm hype here,” a Gulf Coast producer said Friday morning in classic understatement. Usually the approach of a tropical storm toward the Gulf of Mexico production area is a surefire guarantee of higher gas prices, but it was not to be this time. Despite the likelihood of increasing offshore shut-ins over the weekend, traders sent cash prices lower by anywhere from a couple of cents to nearly 30 cents at border-SoCalGas; most declines were on either side of a dime.
To say the weather had an impact on the natural gas futuresmarket last week might be the biggest understatement of the newmillennium. After all, not a day went by that neither forecasters’predictions, nor ever-changing weather itself did not play intotraders’ decisions. Add to that the fact different independent andgovernmental forecasting agencies were not always in agreement. Itall came to a head last Friday when prices soared early in the dayin anticipation of the return of cold temperatures in the Northeastfor the weekend, only to come crashing down that afternoon upon therelease of a fresh medium-range forecast for this week. The Marchcontract was the hardest hit by the sell-off, tumbling 2.2 cents tofinish at $2.57 Friday. Less dependent on the near-term forecast,the outer months managed to hold onto small advances into theclose.
To say the weekly storage report has had an impact on thenatural gas futures market lately would be a gross understatement.Following an impressive 69 Bcf injection on Sept. 1, the futuresmarket dropped 26.6 cents the very next day. Then a week later,following the release of a relatively small 66 Bcf refill, themarket took a wild, 24-cent ride higher to close the session in themid-$2.80s. Now, a week later the question that everyone is askingis whether we will see another big move today. At first glance theanswer to that question was a resounding “yes” because shortlyafter the storage figures were released the October contracttumbled a dime lower in after-hours Access trading.
Another day, another dime (or so) down for cash prices.Acknowledging it was a colossal understatement, a marketercommented, “It seems like the buying frenzy is over.” Although airconditioning was still generating its fair share of demandWednesday, it wasn’t nearly enough to prevent more slides on eitherside of a dime at nearly all price points.