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Nearly All Points Fall on Lack of Weather Load

Despite modestly supportive prior-day futures, the cash market acknowledged the general bearishness of weather fundamentals in falling at nearly all points Tuesday. The remote threat Monday of an early-season tropical disturbance in the Gulf of Mexico had pretty much disappeared a day later.

A couple of flat to about a nickel higher Midcontinent locations ran against the overall market grain. Otherwise losses ranged from 2-3 cents to a little more than C25 cents and tended to be largest in the Rockies/San Juan/Pacific Northwest/Western Canada region.

Cash softness is likely to continue Wednesday as forecasts of mostly moderate weather will remain in force and June futures followed up Monday's gain of 4.1 cents with a drop of 22.5 cents Tuesday (see related story).

AccuWeather.com had suspicions Monday that a system of cooler air over eastern Cuba had the potential of developing into a tropical storm. But other than showing a large area of thunderstorm activity north of Cuba and east of the southern half of the Florida peninsula on its map, the National Hurricane Center said there were "no [Atlantic] tropical cyclones at this time" Tuesday afternoon.

Except for predictions of freezing lows Wednesday in parts of central and Western Canada, the near-term weather outlook had little to offer natural gas bulls. Desert Southwest highs that had still been reaching the low to mid 100s as the week began will be receding into the low 90s Wednesday, Weather Central said, and virtually none of the South will be exceeding the mid 80s. In fact, much of the Midwest will get at least as warm, if not warmer, than the South at midweek, the forecasting service said.

New England is entering a cool spell, but no severe cold is involved. And in the Rockies, another cooldown period means that highs will be retreating from abnormal late-May heights in the 90s back into the 80s.

Conditions are currently mild in the Midwest, but Northern Natural Gas indicated lower temperatures approaching. The pipeline's normal system weighted temperature at this time of year is 60 degrees, a bulletin board posting said, but was expected to be considerably warmer than that at 70 and 71 Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively. However, conditions will be much more like normal Thursday and Friday when the averages are expected to be 60 and 59, respectively, the posting said.

Evidence of storage refilling at a rapid pace early in the season mounted further. Rockies producers almost certainly were not happy to hear that because of "unseasonably high" inventories at its Clay Basin storage facility, Questar will not allow interruptible injections there starting June 1 until further notice (see Transportation Notes).

Tuesday's softness was purely due to weather -- or rather the lack of weather extremes on either the hot or cold sides, said a Northeast marketer. Everything is smooth in the pipeline transportation area.

The marketer said he was hearing a "little bit" of early June bidweek talk. No specific numbers are being discussed yet, he added, but it's looking like there will be small increases in first-of-month indexes.

Except for the upper half of Maine, the National Weather Service (NWS) expects above-normal temperatures in all of the Northeast along with Maryland during the May 25-29 period. It also looks for above-normal readings in nearly all of the West except for most of coastal California and the southern halves of Arizona and New Mexico. The NWS forecast is for below-normal conditions in the Upper Midwest and throughout the South from West Texas through Florida, Georgia and the southern half of South Carolina.

Stephen Smith of Stephen Smith Energy Associates said he projects that a storage build of 100 Bcf will be reported Thursday for the week ending May 15. That was up from his previous estimate of 95 Bcf, Smith said.

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