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.
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CMS Energy Corp. last week continued building what’s shaping up to be a Powder River Basin dynasty. Subsidiary CMS Continental Natural Gas agreed with Pennaco Energy, and CMS corporate affiliate CMS Oil and Gas to gather coal-bed methane gas from the Powder River Basin in Wyoming and Montana.
After etching what some feel could be the range for theremainder of the April contract’s life with Monday’s $1.69 low andTuesday’s $1.825 high, the market stayed pat Wednesday-tradinginside a tight 3-cent range. And while no fresh fundamental forceswere seen to usher the market in either direction, sourcesindentified a host of limiting technical factors in yesterday’sprice action. The April contract finished up 0.5 cents to $1.795.
After a convincing 7-cent gain to kick off the week, the futuresmarket forged higher yesterday morning amid continuedshort-covering mixed with some fresh buying activity. The Aprilcontract was bumping up against the March 12 high of $1.825 inmid-day trading, but in the afternoon the buying dried up, leavingonly sellers to determine the market direction. The resulting priceslide-7 cents in 45 minutes-send the prompt month spiraling lowerto finish at $1.754.
In what some sources referred to as “winter’s last hurrah,” cashprices began the week on an up-note as they garnered momentum froma futures rally and continued covering of first-of-month shortpositions. Cash prices at most trading areas around the countrygained 1-3 cents from weekend levels.
What a difference a week can make. Bull traders, nearly ready tothrow in the towel a week ago, have become “cautiously optimistic”higher prices are in their future. And they have good reason tofeel that way because the market entertained a flood of positivenews last week, which gave bulls and bears alike little choice butto bid the market higher. The April contract broke above the 40-daymoving average at $1.80 on Friday and was propelled 5 cents higherby speculative fund buying to finish the day up 9.8 cents at$1.853. Volume was a heavy 108,348. For the week, April gained 22.5cents.
It’s funny how an extra hundred million dollars will get your attention. That’s what the board of directors of Southwest Gas Corp. have to contend with in the form of an unsolicited proposal from Southern Union Co., after they already had signed off on an offer from ONEOK Inc.
Fueled by what one veteran trader called one of the mostdramatic price moves in the history of the natural gas market,futures prices rallied Monday as the prompt January contractsettled up 12.3 cents to $2.101. But that daily change paled incomparison to the enormous advances seen in the cash market wheredaily gains registered more than a half-dollar for many pipes.Forecasts calling for cooler temperatures for most of the countryand undervalued cash prices were reasons for the market strength,sources agreed.