Several moderate gains in the Rockies and a few other instances of flat quotes prevented an across the board run of price softness Thursday, but it was clear that the cash market was weakening as a large majority of it recorded falling numbers. Power generation buying for cooling load is dwindling across the southern U.S., and heating load in northern market areas is fairly minimal and largely confined to overnight low-temperature periods.

Most points fell anywhere from 2-3 cents to nearly 35 cents, with the Midcontinent and non-Rockies West tending to see the biggest declines. With the exception of the Midcontinent, most eastern losses were limited to a little more than a dime. The occasional cases of firmness ranged from flat to up about 15 cents.

Cash traders had little guidance from Wednesday's minuscule 1.2-cent gain in June futures, but a screen rally of 21.7 cents Thursday should give some support to Friday's physical market.

The Energy Information Administration was in line with consensus expectations in estimating an 87 Bcf storage build for the week ending April 27. Most predictions had centered around the mid-80s Bcf. Nymex traders kept the June futures contract down a few cents for a while after the report was released, but later rose to its final gain on what one analyst called "technical considerations."

The cool California market was depressed by forecast highs failing to reach even 70 degrees. Also, SoCalGas kept a high-linepack OFO in effect through at least Friday and PG&E projected that its linepack would rise above maximum target levels Saturday. The Southern California border and the PG&E citygate dropped a little more than 20 cents and about 15 cents, respectively.

The Southeast, which had seen some genuine air conditioning demand earlier in the week as highs approached 90, was cutting back on that demand amid stormy weather that was lowering temperatures. Atlanta wasn't expected to get above 80 degrees Friday. But a high of 88 predicted for Houston Friday kept most East Texas price losses small.

Snow hasn't faded completely out of the climate picture, as mixed snow and showers are due in mountainous areas of the Rockies Friday, according to The Weather Channel.

It's cooling off in the Southwest and his company's power load was going down, said a regional utility buyer. The utility typically doesn't have much electric load until mid to late June, he said, and right now it's running about one-third of typical mid-summer demand.

That was an "interesting" storage report featuring a pretty strong build, the buyer continued. He commented that industry analysts "seem to be getting pretty good" about predicting the storage numbers.

A marketer in the Upper Midwest said her area is still experiencing a little overnight heating load, but there won't be any left next week when temperatures start getting up into the 80s. Her company made its first spot gas purchase in almost a week Friday, paying $7.685 at the Consumers Energy citygate in Michigan. That was 3.5 cents under NGI's first-of-month index for Consumers.

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