When assessing the market of an acquisition target, allcustomers are not equal, Columbia Energy Group Chairman Oliver G.Richard told a merger and acquisition symposium this week.
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The natural gas futures market tumbled lower last Friday morningwhen a lower open was greeted with steady, unchecked sellingpressure. But after getting caught snoozing early in the day, bullsfought back by bidding up the March contract above $1.80 in choppymidday activity. And by 2:30 in the afternoon many sources feltthat the market would close out the week quietly-right? Wrong-lateposition squaring and market-on-close sell orders had the last sayFriday as they deposited the prompt month contract to its $1.777settle. Estimated volume was 67,482.
Following three straight days of advances the bears reclaimedthe futures market last Friday when early selling pressure piercedthrough several interim levels of support. From that point the routwas on as the February contract plummeted sharply lower inafternoon trading. Only the final bell could halt the decline thatleft the prompt month down 11.4 cent to $1.778.
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.
Natural gas futures turned lower yesterday when a mixed bag ofspeculative and non-speculative selling more than offset light fundbuying. After gapping lower at the open, the February contractquickly mapped out its small, 5-cent trading range and moved verylittle for the remainder of the session. But the price damage hadalready been done, leaving the prompt month 9.6 cents lower tofinish at $1.975 and putting an abrupt halt to a 3-day, 29 centprice spike.
Adding to double-digit gains achieved Wednesday, the futuresmarket plodded higher Thursday when short-covering activity boostedprices in light, pre-holiday trading. The move left February with atwo-day gain of 16.4 cents, a feat January could not muster duringits entire reign as prompt month.
Here today; gone tomorrow was the prevailing mentality in thefutures arena yesterday when the coldest temperatures of the yearwere more than offset by forecasts calling for a warm-up by earlynext week. And as has been the case for most of the month, it wascash prices that not only led the way for the futures market, butalso notched a larger change on the day-where the January contracttrickled down, 2.2 cents to settle at $1.925, cash prices sank by adime on many pipes.
When the going gets tough, the tough turn to gas. That’s oneconclusion that can be drawn from results of Arthur Andersen’s 11thannual U.S. Oil and Gas Industry Outlook Survey. While 70% of the83 companies responding to the survey said they plan to cutexploration spending or hold it at current levels in the comingyear, gas will get a bigger share of the attention. Nearly half ofthe respondents (49%) plan to focus on gas exploration, an increaseof 20% from a year ago. Another 39% of respondents said they willbalance efforts between oil and gas.