With forecasts of warming trends slow in being realized, the market found enough residual heating load to turn in a mixed performance Wednesday in which there were more gains than losses. Most points were flat or close to it, and those more than a dime higher or lower were few.
Quotes ranged from about 15 cents lower to more than half a dollar higher, with the biggest gains occurring in the Rockies (Denver and Cheyenne, WY, which recorded lows of 38-40 degrees Tuesday, were forecast to see them drop to just above freezing Thursday). The Northeast, starting to shake off the aftereffects of a Nor'easter storm that had moved out to sea, tended to see most of the minor softness. With high pressure and dry weather due Friday, Northeast temperatures "will regain some seasonal respectability," The Weather Channel commented.
Meanwhile, the South was "chilling again" a bit after a spring-like feel earlier in the week. Atlanta and Charlotte, NC, were due for lows in the low to mid 40s Thursday. Even Houston was feeling an unusual "nip in the air" Wednesday morning, one source said. The city's forecast was for a high of 80, but it still felt a bit chilly at lunchtime, he said.
Questar not only confirmed being able to reopen the Clay Basin storage facility to normal operations Wednesday after testing had ended, but it also told shippers it is again accepting imbalance payback nominations to or from the pipeline "where capacity is operationally available." Also, the lifting of a high-linepack OFO by SoCalGas removed another constraint on finding a home for western supplies.
The market is not out of the cold completely; there's still some heating load out there, said a Midcontinent producer in reference to mostly flat to moderately higher Midcontinent numbers (CenterPoint East and Panhandle Eastern saw a couple of the relatively rare non-Rockies gains in double digits). However, the daily market was feeling "really quiet for now" to him.
May index-based deals are looking stronger, he said, noting that he had sold May gas at MichCon for index plus 1.25 cents and at NGPL Midcontinent for index plus a penny. He wasn't sure why the premiums were available, but suggested that it may be due to people buying more for storage injections now rather than waiting till later. That makes sense, he added, because the Nymex strip indicates that gas will get more expensive down the road.
It was still pretty chilly in the Northeast, said a marketer, but the weather is starting to break and he expects softer prices Thursday.
Weather fundamentals may allow lower Thursday prices as the marketer thinks, but cash quotes will have their first prior-day futures support of the week after the May contract rose 7.9 cents Wednesday.
In contrast to the cold that has dominated conditions in the East for the past week or so, the National Weather Service (NWS) predicts above normal temperatures during the April 23-27 workweek everywhere except Maine east of a line running southwestward along the eastern border of Michigan to South Texas. NWS looks for below normal readings in most of the area west of a line running south from central Minnesota through eastern Nebraska and central Kansas and encompassing the Panhandle sections of Oklahoma and Texas.
The parts of that area where normal temperatures are forecast are the northwest corner of Montana, northern Idaho, all of Washington state, most of Oregon except the southeast corner and Northern California, along with a strip straddling the border running southeastward between Nevada and California.
Bentek Energy said it expects a storage withdrawal of 29 Bcf to be reported for the week ending April 13. The Reuters survey of 20 industry players found an average estimate of a 41 Bcf pull. Estimates ranged from unchanged to down 56 Bcf, the news service said.
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