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Warmer Forecasts Lead to Lower Prices

Most market areas were still feeling the sting of winter chill Monday, but forecasts for moderating weather trends this week took prices lower at all points. Cash quotes also were depressed by last Friday's 42.2-cent dive in January futures.

Most of the declines were large, ranging up to around C90 cents at Westcoast Station 2. However, Rockies points tended to see smaller drops than most, and Northwest-domestic was the only point to fall less than a dime.

Although Northwest-Sumas plunged more than 60 cents, the Canadian export point still held a premium of more than $2 over the domestic product.

Gulf Coast pipes took many of the biggest price hits despite a hard freeze being predicted for Tuesday morning as far south as the coast from Louisiana through northern Florida.

It's difficult to perceive any near-term prospects for price firmness. Not only is much of the recent spate of cold weather starting to fade or about to do so, but Nymex topped Friday's big loss in natural gas futures with an even bigger one Monday -- down 61.6 cents. The rest of the energy futures complex also saw major declines.

One source speculated that with the heating season well under way and mostly moderate weather forecast for mid-December, utilities and end-users may be more comfortable by now with digging into their storage accounts in lieu of making new spot gas purchases.

While several pipelines were in the process of ending OFO-like actions or other constraints implemented in conjunction with last week's cold snap (see Transportation Notes), Florida Gas Transmission issued an Overage Alert Day for its market area due to freezing temperatures being forecast in northern Florida.

Frigid conditions will continue through Tuesday in most of the eastern U.S., but temperatures in much of the West have returned to seasonal levels, according to The Weather Channel.

A Texas-based marketer said it was obvious that demand was off Monday, even with warmer weather not due until later in the week in northern market areas. He reported trading the Chicago citygate mostly around $7.80.

Baker Hughes tallied a total of 1,423 drilling rigs exploring for natural gas in the U.S. during the week ending Dec. 1, according to the firm's Rotary Rig Count (http://intelligencepress.com/features/bakerhughes/). That was an increase of 28 from the previous week, Baker Hughes said. It was 1% less than a month earlier, but 19% higher than a year ago. All 82 active rigs in the Gulf of Mexico were searching for gas, Baker Hughes said.

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