Between a plunging screen and mild-to-cool weather almosteverywhere outside the southern U.S., it hardly came as a shock totraders that Tuesday’s swing deals done for today only would failto measure up to September index levels. However, some consideredthe ability of crude oil futures to stay above $22/bbl and eventack on an extra dime a mitigating factor in keeping the initialaftermarket softness fairly mild.
Articles from weather
The cash market switched gears Tuesday, as gains of 3 to 11cents at most points reversed a two-day trend of general weakness.A strengthening futures screen replaced the slackening powergeneration demand as the main market driver, one trader said, andthe result was increasing gas prices despite moderatingtemperatures throughout the nation.
Those bemoaning a relative lack of volatility in much of thecash market since early spring must have enjoyed Tuesday. Thingswere very strong-“to put it mildly,” as a marketer said-in tradingTuesday for both the month of July and the last day of June. It wasobvious to everyone what was heating up prices: heat now andforecasts of more heat later. A strong showing by the August HenryHub futures contract lent further support to cash.
Northwest began running a 96-hour test on the Snohomish (WA)Compressor Station’s Unit No. 1 Friday. The test, along with warmerweather and reduced weekend damand, did not allow Northwest toreceive the full 1,097,000 dekatherms of total supply at theSumas/Sipi throughput point. The pipeline capped Sumas/Sipi volumesat 1,000,000 dekatherms Sunday and raised that to 1,050,000dekatherms for Monday’s gas day. No constraint is scheduled todayas the work was expected to end Monday evening.
As many traders had expected, prices were unable to sustain thestrong upward momentum with which they began the week. Even asblizzard conditions got worse Tuesday in several major marketareas, quotes for today’s gas flow were flat to as much as a nickellower. Apparently utilities and other end-users started leaningmuch more heavily on their storage accounts after Monday’s cashrun-up left many points trading well above first-of-month indexes,especially in Eastern markets, one source said.
With weather forecasts producing bearish news at every turn andnational storage reserves looming ever larger, Raymond James &Associates recently published a report projecting spot wellhead gasprices will drop below the $1.50/Mcf level before the beginning ofsummer. The study, however, also warns of a gas “price shock” inearly 2000, when gas shortages run rampant and production is unableto keep up because of sharp declines in exploration and productionspending. It seems the industry is in store for a spot marketroller coaster ride.
The futures market gave the impression it was heading higheryesterday when February opened at Tuesday’s high and quickly tradedto $1.85. But the selling dried up, leaving the market vulnerableto light selling for the rest of the session. The February contractclosed down 5.1 cents for the day at $1.77.
Records for low temperatures were being set Tuesday from theMidwest into the Southeast, but it would have been difficult todiscern that from the broad-based retreat in cash prices. Tradersnoted a falling futures screen and factored in a warming trend thatwas expected to begin in the Midwest as early as Tuesday, then sentcash numbers down by a nickel or more at almost every point.
For the third day in a row Wednesday, natural gas futures werelower as traders continued to discount the arctic cold front andfocus on the larger fundamental picture. Even as a wintry mix ofprecipitation spread from Texas to Washington, D.C. yesterday,sources continued to point to the large storage overhang andforecasts calling for warming temperatures by early next week. Theprompt January contract finished 1.9 cents lower at $1.906.