PIRA Energy Group's Weekly Natural Gas, Power and Coal Market Recap for the Week Ending December 22nd, 2003

Progressively Weaker Yen in December, while Italian Day-Ahead Prices Firmer

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PIRA Energy Group

PIRA Energy Group

The frigid weather that has taken hold of both North America along with the 2014 NYMEX gas price curve have outright reversed the gas market’s forward momentum.

New York, NY (PRWEB) December 26, 2013

NYC-based PIRA Energy Group believes that a progressively weaker yen in December combined with near oil parity spot prices is leading to a stabilization of sorts in Asia spot prices. In the U.S., the frigid weather that has taken hold of both North America along with the 2014 NYMEX gas price curve have outright reversed the gas market’s forward momentum. In Europe, gas shortages in Turkey and parts of Spain are a far cry from the rest of the continent. Specifically, PIRA’s analysis of natural gas market fundamentals has revealed the following:

Progressively Weaker Yen

A progressively weaker yen in December, combined with near oil parity spot prices, is fortifying the stance of Japanese and other Asian utility buyers against any non-essential purchases, leading to a stabilization of sorts in Asia spot prices. Heavier spot buying in the early fourth quarter has led spot prices to where they are today — around $19 per MMBTU according to pricing services — which appears to be the ceiling on what buyers are willing to pay. The price level suggests that burning oil may be a better value compared to these levels. The incentive to buy up February LNG spot cargos at such prices is loosening.

Frigid Weather Reversed Market Momentum

The frigid weather that has taken hold of both North America along with the 2014 NYMEX gas price curve have outright reversed the gas market’s forward momentum. Accumulating losses to gas wellhead freeze-offs, skyrocketing heating loads, and inflated power loads, have set the stage for acute year-on-year storage deficits heading into next year. Aside from the weather, the net trade-off between these conflicting S&D forces will determine how long Henry Hub prices can sustain a “4 handle.”

Gas Shortages in Turkey and Parts of Spain Are a Far Cry from the Rest of the Continent

Gas shortages in Turkey and parts of Spain are a far cry from the rest of the Continent, but it does highlight how countries with a lack of underground storage can occasionally get caught short. Turkey is calling on all sources for more spot LNG, as it appears to have shortages in its residential/commercial and power sectors. While a warming trend is sweeping the rest of the Continent, Turkey is experiencing cold weather and its pipeline sources appear to be unable to provide the balance against demand increases. The impact on European spot prices is largely being felt in LNG markets, where Mediterranean quotes have been put into a rare position of pushing up or supporting spot quotes in Asia. PIRA does not expect to see any impact on European spot prices.

NYC-based PIRA Energy Group believes that Italian day-ahead prices firmer. Weather this December has picked up where November left off with Arctic air invading the Mid-continent and spreading toward the East Coast. Specifically, PIRA’s analysis of electricity and coal market fundamentals has revealed the following:

Italian Day Ahead Prices Firmer

Day-ahead power prices in Italy have featured a significant recovery over the past few weeks. So far, a key factor behind the strength in Italian prices has to be found in a lack of wind generation, with the most severe contraction in wind output recorded in Italy on year-earlier terms. Beyond the temporary lack of wind output, a more bullish fundamental factor is the reduction in flows on the cable between Italy and Greece, with a more visible impact on prices in the Southern regions.

December Weather Has Picked Up Where November Left Off

Weather in December 2012 was mild, and gas prices declined in every market. In contrast this December has picked up where November left off with Arctic air invading the Mid-continent and spreading toward the East Coast. Heating loads have surged as a result, and Gulf Coast market gas prices have rocketed well above $4/MMBtu. Even if weather patterns return to normal in January, the yawning gas storage deficit will support prices during 1Q14, encouraging incremental supply and additional coal substitution for gas in the power sector, particularly if Marcellus basis remains weak. PIRA believes most of the heavy lifting will be done by the supply-side requiring only modest switching to coal in the power sector. This suggests that gas unit margins should be relatively stable in 2014.

Forward Coal Prices in the Atlantic Basin Take a Bearish Turn

The recent rally in the Atlantic Basin seemingly fizzled out last week, with rumors that Drummond will be allowed to load coal without direct loading facilities after December 31 if it pays a daily fine. This has alleviated supply concerns in the market, and was primarily bearish for API#2 (CIF ARA) and API#4 (South Africa) to a lesser extent. FOB Newcastle (Australia) priced ticked up slightly, pulling 1Q14 prices to their highest level since October 23. The market will soon enter its traditional end-year hiatus, so prices are likely to be range bound in the coming days, but that could soon be changing in the beginning of 2014 in PIRA’s view.

The information above is part of PIRA Energy Group's weekly Energy Market Recap, which alerts readers to PIRA’s current analysis of energy markets around the world as well as the key economic and political factors driving those markets.

Click here for additional information on PIRA’s global energy commodity market research services.

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