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Weather Load Not Much, But it Boosts Most Points

Although record-setting heat levels were due to end after Tuesday in the Northeast and weather-based load was not expected to be remarkable elsewhere except possibly in Western Canada and the desert Southwest, prices were up at a solid majority of points Tuesday. The overall cash market firmness was also able to shrug off a 4.4-cent decline by May futures a day earlier.

Most of the losses ranging from a couple of pennies to about a dime occurred at Northeast citygates, where very unseasonably hot weather from the weekend through Tuesday was forecast to give way to moderately cool conditions Wednesday. The rest of the market was flat to about 20 cents higher, with the Rockies/Pacific Northwest tending to see most of the larger gains.

May futures will provide some prior-day screen support for daily cash numbers Wednesday by going off the board 6.8 cents higher Tuesday (see related story).

Almost no transportation constraints of any significance remained after MRT lifted a warm weather-based System Protection Warning Tuesday.

The Midwest may have contributed a limited amount of heating load to Tuesday's market with forecasts of Wednesday lows in the 40s, while the southern tier of U.S. states undoubtedly will keep quite a few air conditioners running with projected highs from the upper 70s to mid 80s in the South and rising as high as about 90 in parts of the desert Southwest. Neither trend is considered particularly strong at this time of year, however.

Despite the end of April approaching rapidly, there are still a few predictions of freezing lows still around. But nearly all were in the northern Rockies and much of Western Canada, where population density is fairly light and thus of mostly minor impact on overall gas demand.

A Texas-based marketer said he doesn't expect Tuesday's majority gains to continue, especially with the Northeast losing virtually all of its recent burst of cooling load Wednesday. Prices should be "tracking down a little" at most points Wednesday, he said.

The marketer said May basis of minus 16-13 cents was most common for the Chicago citygate Tuesday, but the entire range was minus 12-22 cents. He was seeing NIPSCO deliveries going for the NGI index plus a penny, which he said was almost unchanged from Monday.

The market was pretty well supplied for May, he added. His company finished bidweek business Monday. More and more traders are tending to complete next-month baseload deals prior to the traditional bidweek period of the last five business days of a month, he noted, although most of those early deals are done at index.

In its six- to 10-day forecast posted Tuesday afternoon for the May 4-8 workweek, the National Weather Service (NWS) said it looks for below-normal temperatures in a large triangular area of the central U.S. spreading out to far western New York state and eastern Montana at the top and narrowing to northwest Louisiana and the entire Texas Gulf Coast at the southern end. NWS predicts above-normal readings in a strip along the East Coast from southern New England through the southern end of South Carolina. It also expects above-normal in the West everywhere east of a line running from western New Mexico to the north-northeast to the western edge of Montana.

Stephen Smith of Stephen Smith Energy Associates said Tuesday he expects a storage build of 82 Bcf to be reported for the week ending April 24, which was up from his original estimate of 73 Bcf.

Analysts at SunTrust Robinson Humphrey/the Gerdes Group commented that market bears "are looking forward to Thursday's storage report," which the analysts anticipate will show an injection on either side of 100 Bcf. "Typically, triple-digit storage injections do not occur until the May-June time period. In fact, a 100 Bcf increase in storage would be the first triple-digit injection in the month of April since '01."

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