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Northeast Leads Broad Advance; Futures Inch Higher

Gas for next-day delivery advanced at nearly every market point in Tuesday's trading. Only a handful of points fell into the loss column, and the gains were broad and pervasive.

On average, spot prices rose about a dime. Gains in New England outdistanced all other locations with rises of a dollar or more, but strong gains were seen in the Marcellus and Mid-Atlantic as well as California, the Rockies and Midcontinent. At the close of futures trading, May had climbed higher by 0.7 cent to $4.567 and June had risen 0.5 cent to $4.587. May crude oil slid 30 cents to $103.75/bbl.

A slight chill in the air is expected in New England as a cold front is forecast for the area with temperatures in Boston dipping to 10 degrees below seasonal norms. The National Weather Service in suburban Philadelphia said, "a strong cold front will cross the region this evening and then move offshore overnight. High pressure will build across the area Wednesday and then move toward New England Thursday. A ridge from this high will remain across our area into Friday. A weak disturbance will cross the region Friday night and Saturday. More high pressure will follow for Sunday and Monday. Another disturbance may arrive next Tuesday."

Boston meteorologist David Epstein on his blog posted that "the weather is going into drama mode [Tuesday] with strong wind, heavy rain, thunder, and eventually a rapid return to colder air. A strong southerly flow over southern New England this morning is transporting maritime tropical air north. Temperatures overnight didn't fall much below 60 F for a taste of summer. Although there are a lot of clouds today, many areas will make a run at 70 F this afternoon."

Forecaster Wunderground.com calculates that the high Tuesday in Boston of 69 will drop to 45 Wednesday and 44 on Thursday. The normal high in Boston for mid-April is 55. Albany, NY's 45 high on Tuesday was expected to ease to 44 Wednesday and reach 54 on Thursday. The seasonal high for Albany is 58. In Philadelphia the balmy 62 high on Tuesday was anticipated to reach 52 Wednesday and climb back to 55 on Thursday. The normal high is 62.

Gas for Wednesday delivery on Tennessee Zone 6 200 L gained a stout $1.55 to average $6.74, and gas at the Algonquin Citygates jumped $1.55 as well to $6.77. Deliveries to Iroquois Waddington gained 19 cents to $5.36.

Marcellus and Mid-Atlantic market points were able to post double-digit gains. Gas on Transco Leidy rose by 15 cents to $4.15, and gas on Tennessee Zone 4 Marcellus gained 31 cents to $4.18. Parcels headed for New York City on Transco Zone 6 added 45 cents to $4.75, and gas on Tetco M-3 gained 40 cents to $4.73.

In Appalachia, gas on Dominion South was seen up 17 cents to $4.49, and deliveries to Columbia Gas TCO came in 6 cents higher at $4.56.

Gains at Rockies points were somewhat less than eastern locations, but producers are pleased with what they see. "We're OK with CIG near $4.50. I don't hear anyone complaining at all," said a Denver producer.

The producer takes issue with those that think lean storage will propel prices higher. "I think we have to find out what gas price is it going to take to back out enough gas consumption in the power sector to allow storage to refill. Is it $4, $4.50, $5? I think the market itself is trying to find out what is that number. Until we see some hot weather, we may not know."

Gas delivered Wednesday at Transwestern San Juan added 5 cents to $4.51, and gas at Opal rose 3 cents to $4.55. Deliveries on Northwest Pipeline Wyoming added a nickel to $4.49, and packages on CIG changed hands up 2 cents to $4.46. Gas at the Cheyenne Hub was up 3 cents to $4.55.

Analysts remain bullish and look for continued market consolidation. "From here, we see further consolidation within about the $4.50-4.60 zone until volatility begins to lift late Wednesday amidst usual positioning ahead of the EIA storage release," said Jim Ritterbusch of Ritterbusch and Associates.

"We will be looking for an injection of about 27 Bcf, a figure slightly above a year ago but less than the five-year average build of around 37 Bcf. Implied is a further expansion in the storage deficit against average levels, with the shortfall stretching to slightly above the 1 Tcf mark. We are maintaining a bullish trading stance, and we were not surprised by the pullback into the $4.50-4.60 zone given last week's apparent overreaction to a supportive supply hike. We have advised using this area as an opportunity to establish fresh longs in anticipation of an advance to the $4.80 area within about a two-week time frame."

Other market observers see gas storage injections at eastern facilities beginning in earnest and look for a heftier weekly build. "Lingering heating demand has delayed the conversion of several of the eastern storage fields, contributing to last week's lower-than-expected injection," said Teri Viswanath, director of commodity strategy at BNP Paribas. "However, it now appears that a number of the larger storage fields in the East Consuming region have finally begun to report net injections, boosting the aggregate week-on-week storage build. This development should enable the industry to significantly outpace last year's 25 Bcf injection as well as the five-year average of a 37 Bcf build. We expect that the analyst predictions for last week's injection will range from a 45 to 52 Bcf build," she said in a morning report.

Mike DeVooght, president of DEVO Capital, said to "hold short positions and look for the market to continue to work back toward the $4 level." He said trading accounts should continue to hold a short May futures position rolled from a short April at $5.00 to $5.10 and end-users should stand aside. Those with exposure to lower prices should maintain a short May-October strip from $4.20 to $4.30 and also a second short summer strip initiated at $4.50.

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