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Hot-Cold Combo, Screen Push All Points Higher

Though forecasts of seasonal springtime temperatures remain the norm for most areas, the cash market was able to find enough traction in weather-based demand to rise at all points Wednesday. It also derived support from the run-up of 6.8 cents in Tuesday's expiration-day trading of May futures.

The West, where most of both the coldest and hottest weather is currently in residence, garnered a sizeable majority of Wednesday's largest gains, which overall ranged from a little more than a nickel to about 35 cents.

Besides having a fair amount of weather-based demand, western markets also were bolstered to some extent by tight supplies in some cases. In something of a "feast or famine" case, PG&E, which only last week had issued a high-inventory OFO, declared a systemwide low-inventory OFO for Thursday (see Transportation Notes). In addition, Kern River reported low linepack throughout its system Wednesday.

Thursday's cash trading for the beginning of the May aftermarket will have slightly negative screen guidance after June futures debuted as the prompt-month by giving back morning gains and ending Wednesday down 3.7 cents (see related story).

The West has about the only remaining predictions of lows around freezing or less in the northern Rockies and much of Western Canada. It also sets the bar in the other direction, with Phoenix expected to peak in the mid 90s Thursday.

Peaking gas-fired power generation load in the South also contributed to Wednesday's market firmness, although with highs limited to the mid 80s the region is far from reaching its normal summertime heat levels.

Rainy weather is due to keep both the Midwest and Northeast pretty chilly Thursday, but lows in the 40s will stay well above the freezing area. However, a cold front will be taking temperatures in the Northeast a bit lower Friday, The Weather Channel said.

A Florida utility buyer said he suspected that end-of-month imbalance issues may have played a role in Wednesday's across the board price advance. And at least in his own area, temperatures are slightly warmer than normal, "so we have some decent cooling load here," he said. In addition, a couple of Florida nuclear plants being down for maintenance was helping to boost gas-fired peaking generation load, he added.

Maintenance in Florida Gas Transmission (FGT) Zones 1 and 2 means Zone 3 gas is more popular than usual, the buyer continued, so although Zone 3 quotes rose less than in the other two zones, the Zone 3 numbers maintained a healthy premium to their upstream counterparts. He noted that FGT throughput will be running at about 90% of capacity for Thursday, and said that kind of load factor usually doesn't show up until near June.

The buyer said May bidweek numbers were a little stronger than I expected, "especially since June-October basis was getting weaker."

A western trader said bidweek activity was "dead" Wednesday, although he did notice a PG&E citygate deal for 5 MMcf/d at $3.30 on ICE. The trader perceived bidweek trading as tighter than usual, saying it was mainly a factor of wide bid-offer spreads. Buyers and sellers "just didn't want to seem to get together," he added.

Western loads in the daily market are looking a little brisker, with cool to chilly conditions "lasting longer than we expected," he said.

SunTrust Robinson Humphrey analyst Cameron Horwitz said he expects a 95 Bcf storage injection to be reported for the week ending April 24. Tim Evans of Citi Futures Perspective is looking for a smaller build of 80 Bcf in that period, growing to 105 Bcf and 110 Bcf in the weeks ending May 1 and May 8, respectively.

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