Prices continued to fall at all points Friday in predictably light trading activity. In addition to the ongoing market depressants of moderate start-of-winter weather in most areas and abundant storage inventories, the extra loss of industrial load associated with a holiday weekend came into play.
A large majority of the losses, ranging from a couple of pennies to about half a dollar, were in double digits. The Rockies -- one of the few areas where the authenticity of the winter season isn't in question -- along with the Southern California border and PG&E citygate saw most of the smallest declines.
A cash rally isn't expected Tuesday. Although the return of industrial load will provide a modicum of support, January futures followed Thursday's small gain with a drop of 16.5 cents Friday in the start of the three-day countdown to expiry. And the influences of mostly moderate weather and storage bearishness will still be around.
Heating load may be fairly light elsewhere, but it's a very real factor in the Rockies market, where Saturday lows of 10 degrees each were forecast for Denver and Cheyenne, WY. A midweek blizzard that paralyzed travel in parts of four western states and shut down the Denver airport until midday Friday had moved on, but a fresh snow-bearing storm was moving out of the Pacific Northwest into the interior Rockies and Four Corners area Friday, The Weather Channel (TWC) said.
A series of four more storms are due to invade the Pacific Northwest from Saturday through the middle of this week, the forecaster said.
Outside the frigid sections of the West, little had changed in the weather picture. Cooling trends were due over the weekend in the Midwest and South, with the possibility that parts of the upper South could see snow early this week, but temperatures were expected to be normal to above normal in most cases. The remnants of the storm that had plagued the Rockies would be moving into the Northeast during the weekend, according to TWC. The key point for the gas market was that except in northernmost New England, the accompanying precipitation was expected to be rain and not the frozen kind.
Although Friday marked the official start of bidweek (last five business days of a month), a Northeast marketer said very few traders tried to make January deals. "Most are just concentrating on getting their weekend spot positions squared away" so they could leave early for the Christmas holiday, he said. Northeast citygates were quite weak, he added, but Canadian export points into the region were relatively strong, as he saw a lot of buying getting done at Dawn and Waddington.
A Calgary-based producer considered it a very ho-hum day with greatly reduced trader ranks. "There was very little activity going into a long weekend," he said.
A Houston-based marketer saw a little action, saying he was doing a Tennessee Zone 6 deal for January at basis of plus $1.45. At the Chicago citygate, NIPSCO deliveries were being bid at plus 4 cents and offered at plus 9 cents, while Nicor was seeing a premium by being bid at basis of plus 9 cents and offered at plus 16 cents, he said. For deals tied to the NGI index, he said the bid-ask spreads were index plus 6-10 cents for Nicor and index plus 1-3 cents for NIPSCO.
This market will stay weak through January "unless we get a major change" toward colder weather, the marketer noted, and there doesn't seem to be any such change in the intermediate-term forecasts.
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