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Prices Still Rising by Moderate Amounts

Prices continued to move higher at a majority of points as this week's overall rebound completed its third day Wednesday. Heating load remains fairly strong as lows from the mid 20s through the low 40s are in the Thursday forecast for Canada and much of the northern two-thirds of the U.S.

However, the rally showed some signs of flagging a bit as gains were small and more losses that were larger than those a day earlier entered the market mix.

Flat numbers were common in accompanying increases that were all in single digits as they topped out around a nickel. Northeast citygates had led the way higher on Tuesday, but with warming trends setting in following a brief cold spell they fell the hardest amid losses ranging from 2-3 cents to a little more than a dime.

Nymex traders will return to providing support to the cash market Thursday as they followed up Tuesday's penny loss in the prompt-month futures contract with a rebound of 4.3 cents (see related story).

Reflecting the variability of shoulder-month weather in parts of the West, Kern River's bulletin board indicated gradually rising temperatures through Friday at three California locations but said mercury levels would be taking a dip Thursday at Las Vegas, Denver, Salt Lake City and Opal, WY, before beginning a rebound Friday.

The Florida citygate fell about a dime as Florida Gas Transmission ended a two-day Overage Alert Day restriction in its market area (see Transportation Notes).

The South is on the verge of contributing more cooling demand as regional highs are due to rise to the mid 70s through the mid 80s Thursday. Much of the West will still be bottoming out in the 30s and 40s, though.

While the Northeast watches temperatures increase, they will be going the other way in the Midwest. Northern Natural Gas signaled the extent of the chilling trend in the Upper Midwest as it reported a system-weighted average temperature going from around 40 Wednesday to a projected 42 Thursday and 38 Friday before reversing in a small climb to 40 Saturday.

Oklahoma is likely experiencing some cooling load as IntercontinentalExchange (ICE) said intrastate OGT numbers rose about a nickel while volumes traded on the ICE platform jumped from 68,900 MMBtu Tuesday to 120,900 MMBtu Wednesday.

A utility buyer in the South said his company's spot gas purchases are relatively light because its service area is still in an "in-between zone" with cool nights and moderate days. It experienced a date-specific record high around 88 last Saturday, but obviously local air conditioner use has backed off since then, he said. With a low forecast in the mid 40s for this coming Saturday evening, "it may be our last shot at some cooling load" before late next fall, he added.

The buyer said it has been hard to schedule storage injections lately because April weather trends tend to be so variable within short time frames.

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