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Quotes Mostly Higher in West, Lower in East

Other than increases at most western points, there was little consistency in Thursday's price movement. Eastern markets generally were weaker due to mild weather and the screen's drop of about a quarter a day earlier, but had several scattered points ranging from flat to up a little more than 40 cents in the mix.

Numbers were as much as nearly 70 cents higher at Waha, while losses ran to either side of a dollar in quite a few cases.

Some points seemed to defy logic. For example, a high-linepack OFO by SoCalGas (see Transportation Notes) apparently had little impact on Southern California border pricing, which was up about 45 cents. Its neighbor to the north, PG&E, did not issue an OFO itself, but projected that system linepack would be rising above maximum target levels over the weekend. The PG&E citygate rose about half a dollar.

Then there was Sumas. Its loss of about a dime was one of the rare instances of western softness Thursday despite the restoration of access to U.S. markets when Northwest announced it had managed to finish repairs to a pipe segment in Washington state and restored service through the segment Thursday, two days earlier than expected (see Transportation Notes).

There was a bit of an anomaly in the East, too. The Southern Natural Gas drop of a little more than a dime was among the Gulf Coast's smallest, even though the pipeline warned that a Type 6 OFO was "highly likely" this weekend for shippers with long imbalances (see Transportation Notes).

The northern half of the West obviously had some heating load to account for its price strength. A series of winter storms will continue moving into the Pacific Northwest through the first part of next week, according to The Weather Channel. Meanwhile, mild weather remained in the forecast for virtually all of the East.

Waha quotes benefited from the return of some air conditioning load in the intrastate Texas market, where highs in the 80s and even in the 90s in some part were predicted for Friday. But points in South Texas and East Texas were mostly softer along the majority of the eastern market.

The Energy Information Administration reported a storage injection of 29 Bcf for the week ending Oct. 28. The volume was within the range of prior expectations but below consensus estimates. Although some would argue that storage reports are essentially meaningless at the end of the traditional injection season whether they match up with expectations or not, Nymex traders treated Thursday morning's announcement as moderately bullish, pushing the December contract up 8.5 cents on the day.

However, not everyone saw the report as bullish. Analyst Kyle Cooper of Citibank, who had estimated a build range of 21-31 Bcf, said he considered it "very bearish...on a temperature-adjusted basis in particular. In our opinion, this report represents about a 3.5 Bcf/d bearish supply/demand balance. One week can be an aberration. Two weeks is not a trend. Three weeks begins to indicate more is at work and this is the third week of very bearish reports. It is quite likely based on current forecasts that November records a net injection.

With the restoration of shut-in Gulf of Mexico (GOM) production picking up speed, the outages have finally been reduced to less than half of the Gulf's approximate normal output of 10 Bcf/d. Minerals Management Service said 68 companies reported 4,726.84 MMcf/d as remaining offline Thursday, which is 47.27% of normal. That represented a drop of 316.36 MMcf/d from Wednesday. Oil shut-ins of 790,610 bbl/d are still more than half (52.71%) of normal GOM crude production of about 1.5 million bbl/d, MMS said.

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