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Market Sees Big Weekend Losses at All Points

Not unexpectedly, prices fell by large amounts across the board Friday. The negative influences were almost overwhelming: forecasts of moderate late-spring weather continuing in most areas; the extra loss of load associated with a holiday weekend; and the previous day's plunge of 36.7 cents by June futures.

And Thursday's report of an above-expectations 103 Bcf injection into storage during the week ending May was a reminder -- as if anyone needed it -- that the 2009 refill is ahead of schedule.

Friday's losses were fairly consistent throughout geographic market regions in ranging from a little more than a quarter to a little more than half a dollar.

Negative prior-trading day screen guidance will remain, albeit in a milder form, for Monday's cash market after June futures fell another 8.8 cents Friday (see related story).

Pipeline constraints related to mild weather continued to mount as PG&E issued a high-inventory OFO and MRT declared a System Protection Warning (see Transportation Notes). The notice was belatedly sent Friday afternoon, but SoCalGas also declared a high-linepack OFO.

Predictions of wet weather in much of the U.S. during the weekend helped subdue any prospects of gas-fired cooling demand, with most of the South not expected to get above about 80 degrees Saturday, according to Madison, WI-based Weather Central. Moderate to cool conditions will continue to reign from the Northeast through the Midwest, Upper Plains and Rockies, the forecasting firm said. Springtime-like conditions were even starting to emerge in parts of Western Canada, with Calgary due to peak around 70 degrees Saturday.

There was "no surprise" at all in prices being down 40 cents or so at most points Friday, a Texas-based marketer said. Storage and weather are the major drawbacks for near-term prospects in the cash market, he said, but pipeline capacity restrictions will be another factor.

The marketer said he had done no deals for June yet, but basis was "roughly" looking like around minus 12 cents for the Chicago citygate.

Noting the move of CenterPoint prices from being the "dog" of the Midcontinent only a few weeks earlier to commanding a premium over many neighboring pipes lately, a Midcontinent producer said a lot of "split-connect gas" is being moved from CenterPoint-East to higher-priced markets now. Midcontinent Express and Gulf Crossing are not fully operational yet, he said, but they're taking large amounts of gas off the CenterPoint system.

The producer said his company remains bearish about the intermediate-term market. "We're injecting [into storage] wherever we can," he said, but that option is not going to last much longer.

Despite the recent weakness of June futures, Nymex is indicating higher first-of-month indexes, the producer continued (the June contract's finish at $3.515 Friday was 19.4 cents above the May settlement at $3.321). As of Friday he perceived gains of 20-30 cents for June averages.

PG&E's OFO for Saturday was merely an overt symptom of "most of the western pipes filling up," said one trader in the region. Spreads from the Southwest basins to the Southern California border are widening due to excess supplies, he said.

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