Physical natural gas for Tuesday delivery romped higher Monday as traders digested warmer than expected temperatures and estimates of cooling load were coming in above normal. Healthy advances in the Northeast, Appalachia and Louisiana dominated flat pricing in California and mixed pricing in Texas. The NGI National Spot Gas Average gained 8 cents to $2.71.
Futures managed to work higher, boosted by forecasts calling for slightly more heat than earlier model runs out towards the end of the month. At the close August had added 6.5 cents to $2.929 and September was up by 6.7 cents to $2.924. August crude oil reversed course from a lower open and rose 17 cents to $44.40/bbl.
Firm next-day power pricing along with supportive temperature forecasts provided eastern prices with a firm footing. AccuWeather.com forecast that Boston’s high of 87 Monday would ease to 85 by Tuesday and 82 Wednesday, right at the seasonal average. Philadelphia’s Monday high of 87 was expected to jump to 94 Tuesday and ease to 90 by Wednesday, 3 degrees above normal. Chicago’s Monday high of 82 was predicted to dip to 80 Tuesday and climb to 89 Wednesday, 4 degrees above its seasonal norm.
Forecast cooling load also aided the bullish cause. The National Weather Service for the week ended July 15 forecast New England would see 55 cooling degree days (CDD), or 15 above average, and the Mid-Atlantic was expected to endure 74 CDDs, or 18 greater than its normal for this time of year. The greater Midwest from Ohio to Wisconsin was expected to see 77 CDDs or 21 higher than normal.
The Intercontinental Exchange reported on-peak Tuesday power at ISO New England’s Massachusetts Hub advanced $3.05 to $37.30/MWh, and on-peak deliveries to the PJM West terminal tacked on $4.07 to $37.29/MWh. Tuesday power at the Indiana Hub gained $2.42 to $36.00/MWh.
Other market hubs were mostly higher. Gas at the Chicago Citygate rose 6 cents to $2.76 and deliveries to the Henry Hub changed hands 2 cents higher at $2.91. Gas on El Paso Permian shed a penny to $2.54 and packages priced at Northern Natural Demarcation rose 5 cents to $2.68.
Futures traders see the market as rangebound. “Three dollars is now the new resistance and $2.75 support, but we have been there and done that, but at least we finished on a positive note,” said a New York floor trader.
“I can see the market trading over $3, but I can see it back to $2.75 as well.”
August natural gas opened about 6 cents higher Monday morning at $2.92 as more deferred weather forecasts called for incrementally warmer temperatures.
Forecasters see temperatures a touch warmer looking out towards the end of the month. “The latest 11-15 day period forecast is just a touch warmer than Friday’s forecast over the East during the start of the period, but the roll in days offset the changes,” said WSI Corp. in its morning report to clients.
Continental United States population-weighted CDDs “are up 0.5 for Days 11-12 and are forecast to be 65.4 for the period, which are 9.5 above average. Spread within the model guidance offers risks in either direction at this point.” The Global Forecast System “offers a cooler risk across the East and South, but the” European Model “offers a warmer risk over the South.”
Risk managers are looking for western heat to support regional prices, but less so Henry Hub quotes. “Warmer weather in the West could support Western gas basis, but cooler temperatures in the East and South could continue to pressure Nymex natural gas,” said Mike DeVooght, president of DEVO Capital Management, a Colorado-based trading and risk management firm.
“On a trading basis, we did get a technical rally back to the $3.10 to $3.20 level, which failed to generate any buy interest. We feel that if the nearby contract were to break the $2.80 level, we could see a quick break to the $2.60-$2.65 level. We will continue to hold our short producer hedges and will stand aside for speculators at this time.”
Analysts also are seeing some parallels in crude oil and natural gas pricing. “Prices are recovering and are being led by the front end of the market, as the deferred pricing has been under a lot of pressure, and front-end spreads are recovering in line with that,” said Scott Shelton, analyst with ICAP Commodities. “I find the back end of natural gas at levels that are probably too cheap, with emphasis on Summer 18 and Summer 19 with prices at $2.78 and $2.68.
“Intuitively, I don’t see a lot of downside to those prices, but I also feel like natural gas reminds me of crude at $47 when it also looked ‘cheap’ before it went to $42. I am staying away for now and would not be shocked if good data in natural gas met with poor price action much like crude.”
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