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Weekend Chill Lifts Midwest, Midcontinent NatGas; Futures Give Back A Nickel

Natural gas for weekend and Monday delivery on balance fell nominally in Friday trading as double-digit declines at eastern points were unable to offset broader gains in the Gulf, Midcontinent and Midwest.

Overall, the market slipped a penny to $2.30, and the Midwest and Midcontinent rose about 6 cents as a shot of cool air was expected to invade major markets.

Futures prices retreated ahead of the weekend with May sliding 5.0 cents to $2.634 and June dropping 4.7 cents to $2.679. May crude oil retreated 97 cents to $55.74/bbl.

Weekend and Monday deliveries in the Midwest added more than a nickel as temperatures were expected to drop close to 20 degrees at some locales. Forecaster AccuWeather.com predicted Friday's high in Chicago of 76 would drop to 63 Saturday and fall further to 59 by Monday. The normal mid-April high in the Windy City is 60. Minneapolis' Friday high of 73 was seen slipping to 70 Saturday before plunging to 46 on Monday.

Gas on Alliance rose 6 cents to $2.60, and deliveries to the Chicago Citygates added 8 cents to $2.61. On Consumers, packages were quoted at $2.85, up 5 cents, and on Michcon gas rose a nickel as well to $2.81. At Demarcation, gas for the weekend and Monday changed hands at $2.48, up 6 cents.

Buyers were socking away gas more in response to a favorable price environment than to a cool weekend forecast. "We've continued to buy on a daily basis. The price is decent, and we paid $2.88 and $2.865 on Consumers," said a Michigan marketer.

"We are thinking layer it in, and we've got seven months to get our customers' storage filled. We'll add one-seventh each month over and above their daily usage, but we could buy more if prices go even lower."

The Michigan marketer may have started none too soon as forecasters are calling for periodic incursions of cold air to grind through the Midwest. AccuWeather.com meteorologists said, "A weather pattern favoring waves of progressively cooler air will set up across much of the Midwest and Northeast next week and could continue into early May. The cooler weather will arrive after a storm impacts the area then moves eastward."

According to AccuWeather.com's Paul Pastelok, long range expert, a southward dip in the jet stream will develop and will be centered around the Great Lakes much of the time during the latter part of the month. "The pattern will deliver several days of cooler-than-normal air and unsettled weather from the Midwest to the East Coast to end the month," Pastelok said.

New England points were the day's biggest losers as transportation became more freely available. Algonquin Gas Transmission (AGT) said Thursday on its website that it had "scheduled and sealed [all] nominations sourced from points west of its Cromwell Compressor Station (Cromwell) for delivery downstream of Cromwell. No increases in nominations sourced upstream of Cromwell for delivery downstream of Cromwell, except for Primary Firm No-Notice nominations, will be accepted."

By Friday those restrictions had eased somewhat with AGT restricting "100% interruptible and approximately 56% secondary out of path nominations that exceed entitlements sourced from points west of its Cromwell Compressor Station for delivery to points east of Cromwell."

Gas for weekend and Monday delivery at the Algonquin Citygates fell 84 cents to $1.82, and deliveries on Iroquois Waddington skidded 25 cents to $2.54. On Tennessee Zone 6 200 L gas changed hands 69 cents lower at $1.78.

Analysts studying Thursday's initial futures retreat by the May futures and subsequent rebound suggested it might be a sign of a pending market turnaround. Steve Mosley, an Arkansas-based commodity trading adviser and publisher of SMC Natural Gas Price Forecasting and Advisory Services, said Thursday "The strong positive reaction in the face of a bearish storage report is a very typical signal that a seasonal low of some type has been achieved and that a seasonal recovery has become operational.

"We had mistaken a sharp upward market move back in mid March as signaling such a transition even though it was occurring a little earlier than our late March/early April target. [Thursday's] move is more typical as it came after some significant bearish news. If we are in fact reading today's activity correctly, the market should work at least somewhat higher again on Friday and then hold gains in the coming week (thus breaking the four- to five-week pattern of downwardly biased choppiness).

"Seasonal timing greatly favors a recovery at this point as our current winter seasonal low of $2.475 from last Monday (April 13th) occurred just six days ahead of the very historically late low of April 19th from 2012.  Basically, a winter low was about to become seasonally overdue.  Looking ahead, while we only anticipate a lackluster and brief pre-summer rally this spring, it should have a tendency to last at least until May 1st."

Buyers for weekend power generation across the MISO footprint pondering whether to commit to three-day deals will likely be factoring in stout renewables generation by early next week. WSI Corp. in its Friday morning report said, "Weak high pressure may support partly cloudy and mild conditions today into tonight [Friday]. A complex storm system may spread rain across the power pool as the weekend progresses. There is a chance of thunderstorms across Lower Mississippi Valley, which may be strong, [but] the bulk of the showers should depart by Monday, and it will become breezy and cooler in wake of this storm. However, there may remain a chance of a little light rain and even snow across parts of the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes early next week. Rainfall amounts may range 0.25-1 inch-plus, while a few inches of snow may accumulate across northern Minnesota.

"Light wind generation is expected today. The next storm system may cause wind generation to increase during the weekend and become strong early next week. A brisk northwest wind may support output as high as 8-10 GW during Monday and Tuesday.

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