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AM Power Report: Dailies could follow load outlooks, gas higher

Power prices at the daily markets could advance Wednesday, Feb. 1, as expectations for stronger demand across the bulk of the country in the latter part of the workweek conspire with a renewed uptick at the natural gas futures arena at midweek.

Losing more than 11 cents to a three-week low on the spot continuation chart in the prior session, the front-month March natural gas futures contract was rebounding early Wednesday ahead of the opening bell. At last glance, the contract was up 7.5 cents to trade near $3.192/MMBtu on short covering ahead of the Thursday release of the latest round of weekly gas storage data.

Next-day gas prices could see choppy to higher moves at midweek should the futures market remain on an upward trajectory through the course of the trading session Wednesday.

On the demand side, electricity load forecasts for the latter part of the workweek are predominantly aimed higher.

In the Northeast, load in New England is called to reach 17,200 MW on Wednesday and 17,400 MW on Thursday, while load in New York is projected to see highs at 20,414 MW on Wednesday and 20,913 MW on Thursday. Farther south, PJM Western region demand is seen cresting at 55,614 MW on Wednesday and 59,335 MW on Thursday, while PJM Mid-Atlantic load is expected to touch a high near 36,636 MW on Wednesday and 38,367 MW in the latter part of the business week.

In the Midwest, load in the PJM AEP region is seen peaking at 17,120 MW on Wednesday and 18,505 MW on Thursday, while demand in PJM ComEd is projected to hit highs at 13,020 MW on Wednesday and 13,580 MW on Thursday.

In the South, demand in ERCOT could reach highs at 38,659 MW on Wednesday and 39,750 MW in the latter part of the workweek. In the West, load in CAISO is forecast to top out at 29,890 MW on Wednesday and 29,780 MW on Thursday.

In forward trade, power for March delivery had a mixed showing Jan. 31 ahead of its debut as the front-month offering at midweek, even as March natural gas extended lower to ultimately keep fueling costs deflated. February power prices were likewise choppy in their final day in the lead slot.

In the East, price action for March power gave back almost $2 to average $46 at NEPOOL-Mass and near $35 at PJM West, as power values for February fell by more than $5 to an index at close to $50 in New England and recoiled by about $3 to an index at about $36 at PJM West.

In the Midwest, power deals for March advanced by nearly 10 cents to an index at close to $35 at PJM AD but deflated by more than $1 to average above $32 at PJM Northern Illinois, as similar transactions at MISO Indiana rose by about 30 cents to an index at $39. Meanwhile, trading activity for February power was down 80 cents at an index atop $34 at PJM AD and off more than $1 to near $33 at PJM Northern Illinois, but up approximately 20 cents at an index atop $39 at MISO Indiana.

In the South, pricing for March power recoiled by nearly 60 cents to an index above $27 at ERCOT North and faltered by more than $1 to an index atop $25 at ERCOT West, but was boosted by about 30 cents to an average near $29 at ERCOT South and lifted by more than $1 to an average close to $33 at ERCOT Houston. February power values were off 65 cents to $26 at ERCOT West but up 25 cents to as much $2 at indexes ranging roughly from $28 to $33 at the rest of the ERCOT hubs.

In the West, California saw transactions for March power prices hold flat at an index near $30 at North Path-15 but add roughly $1 to average at about $27 at South Path-15, as similar deals tacked on about 10 cents to average at approximately $21 at Mid-Columbia and rose by about $1 to an index at almost $24 at Palo Verde. February power trades shed about 90 cents to average near $35 at NP-15 but picked up about 10 cents to average at close to $32 at SP-15, as similar deals fell by 60 cents to an index at roughly $26 at Mid-C but clawed up by almost 10 cents to an index atop $25 at Palo Verde.

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Market prices and included industry data are current as of the time of publication and are subject to change. For more detailed market data, including power and natural gas index prices, as well as forwards and futures, visit our Commodities Pages.