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All Points Rise on Weather, Screen Support

The cash market combined support from forecasts of hot weather from the Southeast to Arizona, a touch of heating load-raising chill returning to the Northeast and Midwest, the previous Friday's 16-cent increase by June natural gas futures and the return of industrial load from its greater-than-usual decline over a holiday weekend to record gains at all points Monday. Several western upticks were in triple digits.

Only Northern Natural-Ventura's rise of a little less than a nickel failed to exceed a dime. Otherwise, gains ranged from a little more than a dime to a little more than $1.90.

By virtue of going more than a quarter higher while June futures fell 5.6 cents on the day before expiration, Henry Hub traded Tuesday at a premium of about a nickel to the prompt-month screen.

Although northern North Carolina will peak in the cool 60s Wednesday, most of the Deep South is due to see highs in the 80s and 90s, according to The Weather Channel (TWC). And with highs starting to approach 100 or more in the desert Southwest again, gas entering El Paso spiked by $1-plus in both the San Juan and Permian basins.

Although spring is entering its late stages, Wednesday could begin with frosty conditions "anywhere from northeastern Minnesota to Michigan," TWC said. It added that 60s highs in most of the Midwest will be well below late-spring averages. And Northeast highs will be five to 10 degrees below seasonal norms following the passage of a cold front through the region Tuesday, TWC said.

The Southern California border jumped by more than a dollar after SoCalGas ended a three-day high-inventory OFO on Monday, while an Overage Alert Day declaration by Florida Gas Transmission came and went during the holiday weekend. As of Tuesday the only OFO-like pipeline restriction in sight was MRT's System Protection Warning, and it wasn't scheduled to go into effect until Thursday (see Transportation Notes).

A Midcontinent producer has proven to be accurate in his prediction that Panhandle Eastern prices would get relatively weaker when Rockies gas carried by Rockies Express Pipeline (REX) joined Panhandle's existing sources of supply. While Panhandle prices have not exactly been "hammered," as the producer put it (see Daily GPI, May 19), even with Tuesday's gain of about 45 cents they have sunk to the bottom of the Midcontinent pack. On the Friday (May 16) before REX began accepting nominations for delivery to Panhandle in Audrain County, MO (see Daily GPI, May 20), Panhandle's price average was still exceeding those of ANR-Southwest, CenterPoint-East, CenterPoint-West and NGPL-Midcontinent.

In a reminder that the industry is now less than a week away from the official start of the 2008 Atlantic hurricane season, AccuWeather.com meteorologists said Tuesday they were monitoring conditions in the tropics that could lead to low-pressure development. The areas of particular interest are the western Caribbean and the region near Mexico's Yucatan peninsula, the forecasting service said. "Several runs of the models have been showing a low-pressure area developing. It's forecasted to drift slowly northward and it will be on the western edge of the Caribbean on the Yucatan peninsula," AccuWeather.com Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski said. "This time of the year, it's a favorite area for storm development as early season activity tends to develop in the warmest waters."

"Tell the weatherman that it's nearly summer," said a Midwestern utility buyer who reported temperatures around 52 degrees in his city Tuesday afternoon. It's been colder than normal since December, he said, "and it still is." At least the utility's gas throughput is strong, he noted.

The buyer thinks that the current cool spell likely will be the last one of the season, though, saying temperatures will be warming steadily through the week and are forecast to peak in the mid 80s Friday.

He reported buying three June baseload packages at Northern Natural-demarc last Thursday and Friday, adding that the deals were done at index ranging from minus a penny to plus 1.5 cents. Supplier offers were plentiful, he said.

The National Weather Service (NWS) expects normal temperatures in most of the U.S. during the June 2-6 workweek. It predicted below-normal readings only in Michigan, Wisconsin and the eastern half of Minnesota. NWS looks for above-normal temperatures in northern Maine and also in all of Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico, along with nearly all of Texas and Arizona, southern Nebraska and the eastern edge of Utah.

The number of drilling rigs actively seeking natural gas in the U.S. soared by 22 in the week ending May 23, according to the Baker Hughes Rotary Rig Count (http://intelligencepress.com/features/bakerhughes/). Three offshore rigs quit the search in the Gulf of Mexico, but that was more than offset by an increase of 25 rigs onshore, Baker Hughes said. Its latest tally is up 1% from both a month ago and the year-earlier level.

SunTrust Robinson Humphrey/the Gerdes Group noted that the Baker Hughes count marks "the largest sequential rig count increase since early March. Notably, the rig count appears on track with our forecast for an average gas rig count of approximately 1,490 this year."

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