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Most Points Keep Falling Due to Moderating Cold

Prices fell at most points Friday -- by dollar-plus amounts at several locations in the Northeast and Gulf Coast -- as moderating weather trends were expected to begin over the weekend in several areas and be firmly entrenched by the start of this week. The extra loss of industrial load associated with a long holiday weekend was an additional negative influence for the cash market.

It was the West, where below-normal temperatures will dominate the coming week, that recorded most of the flat to about 15 cents higher numbers. That region was joined by Michigan-area locations in mild firmness. Michigan citygates had tended to be flat or see the weakest eastern gains in the two-day rally of Tuesday and Wednesday.

Northeast citygates recorded the day's biggest drops, led by a plunge of nearly $4.40 at Transco Zone 6-New York City. Even with their severe weakness, Northeast quotes still averaged above $10 at most points. Otherwise, losses were as small as a couple of pennies and were largest in the Gulf Coast.

Transportation constraints continued to ease, with Southern Natural Gas and MRT saying they would end Saturday a Type 6 OFO and a System Protection Warning, respectively. Florida Gas Transmission still had an Overage Alert Day for market-area customers in place Friday, but it wasn't expected to last despite freeze advisories for Friday night and Saturday morning being posted in much of Florida. That was reflected in a plunge of about $1.40 at Florida Gas Zone 3 (unlike other pipes, FGT does not post constraint notices until the morning of the affected gas day).

A Friday morning outage of the Opal Plant in Wyoming (see Transportation Notes) was due to a power failure caused by high winds, said a spokesman for plant operator Williams Field Services. Operations had been restored to 75-80% at mid-afternoon and were expected to be back to 100% Friday evening, he said.

As usual on the eve of a holiday weekend, cash market activity was fairly brisk Friday morning and many traders were heading home early that afternoon. Most of those in Calgary will be observing an Alberta-only provincial Family Day holiday that coincides with Presidents Day in the U.S.

Some locations in Texas were experiencing their coldest weather in years Friday. Houston's morning low of 27 not only broke a daily record but was the city's coldest reading since March 4, 2002, according to The Weather Channel. Dallas-Fort Worth dipped into the teens for the first time since December 2005, the forecaster added.

A Midcontinent producer noted that while the harsh conditions at midweek were starting to ease, it would still be quite cold in northern market areas over the weekend. They won't get significant moderation until early this week, he said.

Friday's late deals were moving higher in price, the producer said, and he suspected that quite a few suppliers were selling gas out of storage instead of new production. Buyers were reluctant to commit Friday because they "had gotten smoked" in the last couple of days when prices had started near their high ends and then gone lower, he said. On Friday they waited longer, refusing to take the first few offers, he added. That prompted early sellers to get more aggressive.

The National Weather Service (NWS) expected this week to begin with above normal temperatures concentrated in the central third of the U.S., but thinks the relative mildness will spread into most of the East around midweek. In its six-to-10-day forecast for the Feb. 21-25 period posted Thursday afternoon, NWS predicted above normal readings everywhere east of a line running north-northeastward from the Big Bend area of West Texas to the northeast corner of Minnesota, except in the Upper Midwest, upstate New York and northern New England. The agency looks for below normal temperatures everywhere west of a line from western Montana to western New Mexico.

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