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Mild weather forecast for US Northeast promises to prolong bearish start to winter


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Heating demand to underperform into late December

New York — Cash prices in the US Northeast fell in Dec. 10 trading as weather forecasts called for more mild temperatures over the next two weeks, extending an already bearish trend for regional gas demand and prices.

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At mid-session, production-area prices at Dominion South were down about 10 cents to $1.77/MMBtu. In the Northeast market-area, Algonquin city-gates was off 47 cents on the day to $2.23, while Transco Zone 6 New York fell 38 cents to $1.97, data from the Intercontinental Exchanged showed.

Gas prices across the Northeast are likely to come under additional pressure in the days ahead.

According to a forecast from the National Weather Service, metro areas stretching from Washington DC to Portland, Maine will see a 33% risk for above-average temperatures over the next six-10 days. A week-ahead projection from S&P Global Platts Analytics predicts a similar outcome with population-weighted temperatures in the Northeast expected to average more than 5 degrees Fahrenheit above normal.

With warmer weather expected to linger through late December, the Northeast will likely see more downside risk for gas prices at regional hubs already trading at steep discounts this winter season.

Winter market

In November, cash prices at Dominion South, Algonquin city-gates and Transco Zone 6 NY averaged their lowest in a decade or more at just $1.09, $1.95 and $1.47/MMBtu, respectively, data from S&P Global Platts shows. Month to date, prices are up about 80 cents to $1 on average, thanks to colder weather.

With recent forecasts calling for a return to milder temperatures, though, the unseasonably warm start to this winter's heating season in the Northeast could make the history books. From Nov. 1 to date, residential-commercial gas demand in the region has averaged just 10.1 Bcf/d – its lowest since 2015 when it averaged only 9 Bcf/d over that period, data from Platts Analytics shows.

Over the next week, current analytics projections show Northeast gas-fired heating averaging about 12.3 Bcf/d, with demand in the week following only climbing modestly to an average 12.9 Bcf/d.

The forward market is already bracing for more price pain.

At Dominion South, the balance-of-month gas contract settled Dec. 9 at $1.72/MMBtu – down nearly 20 cents from the start of this month. In the Northeast market area, forwards prices have seen even larger downward movements. At Algonquin city-gates, the balance-of-month contract is down almost 90 cents to $2.82; at Transco Zone 6 NY, prices have fallen nearly 40 cents to $2.40, Platts' most recently published M2MS data shows.