Despite modest prior-day support from futures, the cash market was losing enough heating load to moderating weather trends in several areas to cause lower prices at most points Friday. The drop of industrial load that accompanies weekend flows also contributed to the overall softness.

The unexpectedly cold conditions that had boosted Rockies numbers tremendously in the three days since last Monday's plunges were petering out, with Denver and Cheyenne, WY, predicted to go from mid-30s highs and sub-freezing lows Friday to highs in the low 50s and lows around freezing or a little higher Saturday. Thus the Rockies recorded all of the biggest losses of a little more than 80 cents to around $1.10 (Questar was an exception with a decline of less than 35 cents).

Outside the Rockies, quotes ranged from flat to down about 40 cents, with the Midcontinent taking most of the largest non-Rockies hits. A few scattered points had small gains of up to about a dime (NGPL-Louisiana was something of an aberration with an uptick of about 35 cents in a Louisiana market that otherwise was mostly close to flat). With a winter storm targeting the Northeast over the weekend, regional citygates tended to see the biggest concentration of flat to mildly higher pricing. Northeast temperatures would be 10 to 25 degrees below average, The Weather Channel said, and "heavy, wet snow, locally over a foot, will hit the mountains of West Virginia, Pennsylvania and New York and New England."

Even with Friday's overall softening, all points continued to maintain at least double-digit premiums to first-of-month indexes.

Kern River said its linepack had increased by approximately 100,000 dth Thursday but still remained "critically low" Friday.

A Calgary-based producer said he detected a definite drop in Midwest heating load even though snow was in the weekend forecast for some sections and any warming trend would be minor. He noted that Chicago citygate traders were preparing for a week-long outage of Vector starting Monday, which will affect takeaway capacity from the Chicago Hub to Dawn. He also said Alliance and ANR maintenance set for Tuesday will cause a bit of extra weakness in the Chicago market Monday, making it tougher to move gas elsewhere.

Another Western Canada producer observed that for some time the NOVA Inventory Transfer market has been moving in near-lockstep with May futures, "staying tight" at about US94 cents back of Nymex. The Calgary area was warming up rapidly Friday, he said, going from a freezing low to a high in the mid 50s.

A West Coast source said it was unusually cold at 44 degrees early Friday in Southern California, but added that "it's only cold at night" and warms up nicely during the day.

The number of drilling rigs actively searching for gas in the U.S. saw a big jump of 34 to 1,472 during the week ending April 13, according to the Baker Hughes Rotary Rig Count (http://intelligencepress.com/features/bakerhughes/). Nearly all of the increase occurred onshore, as only one gas-seeking rig was added in the Gulf of Mexico.

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