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Most Points Still Rising, But Hints of Softness Appear

Although some of the newfound cooling demand will already be starting to fade Wednesday in the South, cash prices were able to keep rising Tuesday at most points because of the residual heating load and cooling load that remained in northern and southern market areas, respectively, and the previous day's 30.1-cent advance by May futures. But flat to about 35 cents lower quotes at quite a few locations and a major screen retreat signaled that the bullishness with which the April aftermarket began may be ending quickly.

Prices were up from 2-3 cents to about half a dollar at a majority of locations, with a forecast that may involve snow in northern New England generating the biggest gains at Northeast citygates. The flat or weaker points were concentrated in the Midcontinent/Midwest, Southwest/Rockies/Pacific Northwest and Western Canada market areas.

After having plenty of futures support for Tuesday, the cash market will have to get along with highly negative guidance for Wednesday. The May contract at Nymex gave back all of Monday's gain and more, realizing a total loss of 37.7 cents Tuesday.

The primary weather support for Tuesday's market was in the Northeast, where a windy Wednesday is in store as a storm system begins to exit the region. And Tuesday's prices also could still count on a fair amount of heating load at the Texas end of the South, along the coast and in Florida, where an Overage Alert Day by Florida Gas Transmission (FGT) due to warm weather (see Transportation Notes) resulted in upticks of about 15 cents and 35 cents at Florida Gas Zone 3 and the Florida citygate, respectively.

But previously mild Southern highs will be retreating into the 60s and low 70s from the Arkansas/North Louisiana area to Georgia and the Carolinas.

On the other side of the temperature coin, mercury levels will be rising into the 40s and 50s from the Midwest through the Rockies.

Pipeline constraints are starting to show up again. Besides the FGT action, PG&E issued a low-inventory OFO for Wednesday, and MRT will implement a System Protection Warning Wednesday due to cold weather.

In addition, Northwest warned receipt point operators south of the Kemmerer and Plymouth South constraint points that it is seeing shortfalls at the south end of its system and it will cut nominations in all cycles to match any underdeliveries. It reminded them that primary nomination requests through Kemmerer and Plymouth South are at their physical capacities, and the pipeline does not have any south-end balancing flexibility due to Questar's maintenance at the Clay Basin storage facility. Northwest's warning probably was primarily responsible for reduced Sumas demand that took the Canadian export point down 35 cents and also resulted in a decline of about C30 cents at Westcoast Station 2.

A Midcontinent producer said he is seeing quite a few more electric generators than usual out buying spot gas because of nuclear plant outages. He thinks it's a good bet that Tuesday's big screen loss will translate into lower cash prices at most points Wednesday.

Stephen Smith of Stephen Smith Energy Associates is projecting a storage pull of 37 Bcf for the week ending March 28. He said that volume replaced an earlier withdrawal estimate of 43 Bcf.

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