Natural gas futures closed higher after a weak start yesterdayas traders were able to look past the dismal fundamental outlook tofocus on the short-covering activity at hand. That lifted the Marchcontract a modest 3.4 cents to finish at $1.86 on its first day asthe prompt month.
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Texaco said its fourth quarter 1998 results will include netspecial charges of about $350 million. “Continuing weak demand andsurplus supplies have driven crude oil, natural gas and refinedproduct prices sharply downward. In this low price environment, wewill be required to revalue inventories. We will also write-downoil and gas properties where remaining investments will not befully recovered,” said Texaco CFO Patrick J. Lynch.
Unocal Corp., like most other producers struggling againstdepressed oil and gas prices, said Wednesday it expects to cutcapital spending by 30 to 40% in 1999 from this year’s level. Inaddition, the company is targeting cash expense reductions of $150million, of which about $100 million has already been identified.
Perceptions of whether September prices were still fallingFriday sometimes depended on the specific market. A trader in theSouthwest basins said numbers bounced around a bit Friday butessentially had hit bottom late Thursday. But another source saidChicago citygates continued to fall to a low of $1.62.
Weak oil prices were the bane of three major producers reportingsecond quarter earnings so far. Depressed crude prices were blamedfor second quarter and 1998 first half results significantly offfrom year-ago periods. At least one company said it may refigureE&P expenditures should the low prices persist. Gas prices alsowere off in most cases but less so than oil.
The August Nymex contract fell 3.4 cents to $2.389 on Monday,amid a day when an extremely light 22,000 estimated total contractschanged hands. “We went from 123,000 contracts on Friday to almostnothing today. There just ain’t nothing going on,” a traderlamented. The fourth-of-July is typically among the lowest demandperiods of the year, and because the holiday falls so close to thefirst of the month, many cash market traders termed up incrementalgas through July 7th during bidweek, several sources reported. As aresult, the Merc pit lacked solid participation from commercials,and a broker expects that to continue throughout the week.