Despite cooling trends in New England and western sections of the Midwest, the cash market continued to find enough power generation load to keep air conditioners humming that rising prices prevailed again at most points Wednesday. The recent trend of mixed price changes continued at least another day as a few Midcontinent and Rockies points ranged from flat to modestly lower.

A large majority of gains were in double digits as they ranged from a little less than a nickel to about 45 cents. Northeast citygates joined a couple of Rockies points in seeing most of the largest upticks, but generally Rockies price strength was significantly less than on Tuesday.

Prior-day screen support will finally return to the cash market Thursday. After a string of losses by June futures all the way through Tuesday's expiration, July spent its initial day as the prompt-month contract achieving an impressive advance of 21 cents to $7.941, stopping just shy of the key psychological level of $8 at one point.

Bentek Energy's analysis of natural gas hub flows (http://intelligencepress.com/features/bentek/) confirmed the California market's strength Wednesday, in which the Southern California border's increase of 84 cents was among the day's leaders. That day nominated volumes were up 123,000 MMBtu/d (5%) at the PG&E citygate, 431,000 MMBtu/d (33%) at Malin and 549,000 MMBtu/d (24%) at the border, Bentek said. But although temperatures will continue to reach the mid-90s Thursday in inland areas of the Golden State, cool conditions on the coast cooled off the market, with the above three points rising Wednesday by only about 14, 14 and 3 cents respectively.

Stormy weather will keep cooling load moderate Thursday in much of the Midwest and Great Plains, but highs are likely to hit the 90s in western Ohio and north-central Kentucky, The Weather Channel (TWC) said. And although New England will see a fairly large temperature drop (Boston's high in the low 80s Wednesday is expected to fall below 70 Thursday), the lower end of the Northeast could still see highs of 90 or slightly higher, according to TWC.

Seasonal highs throughout the 80s will continue to dominate Southern weather. And warm and dry is the watchword for much of the West, with peaks remaining above 100 in the desert Southwest.

Like many others, a Gulf Coast trader said she was trying to balance her company's position for the end of the month. However, she didn't think that had very much to do with regional price strength, saying she guessed it was mainly the heat and noting that some late help came from a rising screen.

Between cooling load and the first futures support in well over a week, it's virtually a cinch that cash prices will be on the rise again Thursday, the trader said. She also expects heat to keep the June spot market firm for the most part, saying her company's power generation are expecting to crank up output pretty soon.

Apparently virtually all of June bidweek business had already been completed, she added. She saw "a little bit" of baseload Tennessee Zone 0 traded at $7.54 on ICE, but essentially nothing else for June Wednesday.

The pace of refilling storage is going pretty fast in the Midcontinent due to a lack of hot weather, a producer said (Tulsa and Oklahoma City could expect highs only around 80). Area storage buyers "can pick and choose their spots" for making purchases, he said, and that probably had something to do with softness occurring almost nowhere but the Midcontinent Wednesday.

The heat might be too little too late in coming to keep the June aftermarket from softening, at least in the Midcontinent, as near-term forecasts for the region are still a bit bearish, the producer said. However, he agreed with the above trader in expecting the rise in July futures to keep most or all of the market firmer Thursday.

Ron Denhardt of Strategic Energy & Economic Research expects a storage build of 107 Bcf to be reported for the week ending May 25.

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