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Minor Softness Dominates Due to Milder Forecasts

With heating load continuing to recede and replacement cooling demand still missing in action for the most part, prices fell at nearly all points Thursday. Although softness had replaced firmness as the dominant characteristic of price movement, near-flat numbers were still in vogue as few points changed by a dime or more.

There were practically no gains in the spot market as flat quotes at several points, mostly in the West and Midcontinent, were the only exclusions from the overall losses. Declines ranged from 2-3 cents to about 15 cents.

The Energy Information Administration was pretty much in line with consensus expectations centered around 20 Bcf when it reported a 21 Bcf storage injection for the week ending April 10. Nymex traders took a rather dim view of the seasonal refill being stout so early after beginning from already-high levels, however, and sent the May futures contract 9.4 cents lower (see related story).

Even upper New England, upstate New York and much of Canada have dropped out of the freezing-low competition, with bottom-end temperatures ranging from the mid 30s to the low 40s forecast for Friday at most locations in those areas. About the only significantly populated areas where temperatures around 32 degrees or less were expected to remain were the northern Rockies and locations in Canada such as Winnipeg, MB, and Edmonton, AB.

Most of the U.S. is expected to experience seasonally moderate weather going into the weekend, with virtually nothing in the way of either severe cold or significant heat.

Rockies prices were mostly around flat as regional suppliers regained a significant parking place for unwanted gas after Questar said it was ending its testing outage of the Clay Basin storage facility a day earlier than expected and was accepting injection nominations for Thursday's gas day (see Transportation Notes).

The belated issuance of a high-linepack OFO by SoCalGas had little pricing impact, especially since the OFO notice wasn't sent until after cash trading had ended. Numbers at the Southern California border and the SoCal citygate were down 2-4 cents or so, or about the same or less than the loss of about a nickel at the PG&E citygate, where no OFO was in effect.

Northern Natural Gas predicted that its system weighted average temperature would be sinking to around the seasonal norm of 47 Sunday after peaking around 60 Friday.

Although NOVA Inventory Transfer quotes saw one of Thursday's larger declines of about C10 cents, the pipeline warned that it might need to change the imbalance tolerance range due to drafting of its system.

The market has been pretty quiet lately, said a Florida utility buyer. Because of maintenance on coal and nuclear generating plants, several gas-fired peaking units in the state were being dispatched recently to cope with air conditioning load due to high temperatures around 80, he said. However, current conditions have gotten a bit milder after warmer weather earlier in the month, he added.

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