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Rallying Weather-Based Load, Screen Boost Prices

The cash market regained the price ground lost on the previous day and more Wednesday as a decline of heating load in the South proved to be less than expected and the lower Northeast saw a substantial reversal of prior warming trends. Spot gas also had fairly strong support from Tuesday's May futures rise of 12.4 cents.

Flat quotes at Canadian market-related points Emerson, Stanfield, NOVA Inventory Transfer and Empress were exceptions to gains ranging from a couple of pennies to about 15 cents. A sizeable majority of the increases were in double digits and were generally evenly distributed geographically.

It won't be as much as before, but cash traders will again have positive Nymex guidance for Thursday as the prompt-month contract tacked on another 4.8 cents (see related story).

A cool front moving into the South's northwest corner was causing less erosion of cooling demand overall than might have been expected. It was expected to limit Thursday's peak temperatures to the 60s and 70s in Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma and northern Texas, said The Weather Channel, but elsewhere in the region highs should range from the 80s to the upper 90s and lower 100s in South Texas along the Rio Grande.

And colder trends in the Northeast will be most pronounced in the southern sections. The forecast for Philadelphia, which fell just shy of 80 Wednesday, called for its high to plummet to the low 60s Thursday with a low around 40, according to Madison, WI-based Weather Central.

The Midcontinent/Midwest market shared in the substantial games despite slow warming trends proceeding and the Midwest and much of the Midcontinent staying relatively mild. Static or warmer temperatures were predicted for much of the West.

Florida Gas Transmission (FGT) kept an Overage Alert Day in effect for a second day Wednesday. After seeing a nickel loss Tuesday, FGT Zone 1 in South Texas was among Wednesday's top gainers, while downstream FGT Zones 2 and 3 rose about a dime each.

A Texas marketer said he "had a feeling" that prices will keep going up Thursday due largely to bullish weather in most areas, strong oil and gas futures and gradually increasing storage purchases for the holiday weekend. He noted that Thursday's trading will be for flows Friday through Monday, and expected that as usual many traders will leave their offices by early afternoon because of the Good Friday holiday.

With Houston-area temperatures reaching the mid to upper 80s lately, IntercontinentalExchange (ICE) found Houston Ship Channel prices seeing one of its highest gains at around 16 cents, while ICE-traded volumes shot up from 421,300 MMBtu Tuesday to 582,000 MMBtu Friday.

Instead of suggesting a coming Southeast supply glut, the recent overall strength of the cash market shows how "misled" it is, said Societe Generale analyst Laurent Key in a commentary Wednesday. It has already priced in above-normal cooling loads in Florida and Texas and heating loads in the Northeast and Midwest, he said. Key noted that gas futures are traded in New York, where the physical market has recently been shorter than usual, but gas itself is delivered to Henry Hub, where supplies are now potentially longer than they used to be.

"Because of this skew, the Henry Hub physical market has often traded more in line with Northeast and Mid-Atlantic weather than with Southern conditions," he said, and as weather gets milder in the North's consuming areas, it likely will put downward pressure on numbers at Henry Hub and the South in general.

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