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Repeat: Most Points Fall, A Few Big West Gains

As a Calgary-based producer had expected, prices largely repeated Thursday's market by continuing to fall at most points Friday based on light weather-based demand and a prior-day screen decline, but high temperatures in much of the West spurred further sizeable gains in San Juan Basin and Rockies locations.

Most of the market recorded declines ranging from 2-3 cents to nearly half a dollar, with the greatest weakness concentrated at Northeast citygates, where a warming trend was due to start Saturday. Other points were flat to up about $1.25, although Northwest-South of Green River was the only location to exceed an uptick of about 80 cents.

After Henry Hub and June futures ended Thursday trading at parity with each other ($11.40), the hub was left in the unusual position of commanding a substantial premium to the front-month contract by losing a little less than a dime while futures fell 30.5 cents. That will result in continued negative screen guidance for Monday's cash market.

After so many postponements of scheduled full service on the Rockies Express (REX) western segment since January, Rockies producers may not want to hold their breath, but in an update late Friday afternoon the pipeline said it expected to begin accepting nominations Monday for Tuesday deliveries to the Panhandle Eastern interconnect in Audrain County, MO (see related story).

A mini-heat wave continued into the weekend for much of the West as record-setting afternoon temperatures in the 90s and 100s would "be common from eastern Washington and eastern Oregon to the Snake River Valley in Idaho and southward through central California Saturday," according to The Weather Channel. San Juan Basin gas continued to be the supply of choice to combat much of the heat with gains of 70-80 cents or so in El Paso's two San Juan pools, but the Rockies gains indicated they were also being called upon.

Curiously, despite the weekend heat, prices fell Friday at all four California points.

With the West Coast heat spreading eastward early this week into the Rocky Mountains and western Plains, that should hasten mountain snowmelt that has been delayed by extended cool weather this spring. That means hydropower may begin displacing gas-fired generation in the near future.

Cooling load continued to be limited in the South as a cold front was keeping high temperatures mostly limited to the 70s. The Midwest was getting a little chillier, but still not cold enough to prompt price-supporting heating load.

Cash followed Nymex down, resulting in lower prices near the end of trading, a Midcontinent producer said, which should result in further cash softness Monday. The only chance for a rally of eastern prices this week that he could see is a large infusion of sustained heat, and chances of that are slim with below-normal temperatures predicted for the workweek in most of the eastern two-thirds of the U.S.

Most of Friday's buying in the Midcontinent was for storage injections, the producer continued. Few gas-fired power generation units are being used until temperatures become a lot hotter, he said.

In this kind of market, "if you're not properly hedged, you'll get your lunch eaten," he added. He has made sure to implement hedges for his company's gas.

Referring to yet another record-setting spike in crude oil futures, the producer said, "Nothing explains oil prices." It seems oil can go up when the dollar gets weaker and also go up when the dollar gets stronger, he said. Bottom line: damned if you do and damned if you don't.

He expects Panhandle Eastern prices to get "hammered" in the Midcontinent when the REX-West connection finally gets activated and a pent-up flood of Rockies supply starts entering the pipe in Missouri. Usually his company trades in the Oklahoma intrastate market but also uses Panhandle when the price there is advantageous, he said.

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