Next-day forecasts still relatively moderate, but traders see heating load increases nearby.

Imminent heating demand was still on the light side for the most part, but prices continued to rise at nearly all points Wednesday as forecasts of significantly colder weather by the weekend remained in effect. The cash market also had support from the previous day's gain of 12.2 cents by December futures.

Several flat to about 35 cents lower numbers, primarily occurring in the Northeast where prices had risen most steeply on the previous day, were out of step from general gains ranging from a couple of pennies to about a quarter in most of the market. A large majority of increases were in double digits.

A four-day string of prior-day screen support for the cash market came to an end after prompt-month futures dropped 16.4 cents Wednesday (see related story). The Nymex contract was up for a while shortly after the Energy Information Administration confirmed a new storage inventory record with last week's 19 Bcf injection, but later succumbed to its lower daily closeout level.

A "weak surface trough" north of Puerto Rico and the northern Leeward Islands had a near-zero chance of becoming a tropical cyclone during the succeeding 48 hours, the National Hurricane Center said.

The Northern Natural Gas bulletin board indicated how cold it will be getting soon in the Upper Midwest, saying that with a normal system weighted temperature of 36 degrees at this time of year, it was projecting its system average at 50 Wednesday and 42 Thursday before dropping to 36 and 33 on Friday and Saturday, respectively.

A Midcontinent producer called it "amazing" that a local high of 74 was predicted for Wednesday. He said Enogex's Line 21 remaining out of service was backing up gas on that pipe. Saying the outage is scheduled to end by next Monday, the producer said this line was the primary firm service "for shippers to haul to Bennington into MEP [Midcontinent Express Pipeline], Gulf Crossing or NGPL-Bryant. The only demand [in Midcontinent] here would be to top off storage." He expects prices t fall heading into bidweek.

It seems like "fairly good weather for now" in the Upper Midwest, said a regional marketer. However, she said her company went into November a little shorter on baseload supply than usual, and it hated to have to buy spot gas while prices have spiked in the past couple of days. She expected the futures drop following the storage report to drag spot prices lower Thursday.

Although IntercontinentalExchange saw Chicago citygate prices rising by about 15 cents, it reported trading volumes there on its online system almost unchanged from 688,300 MMBtu for Wednesday to 689,400 MMBtu Thursday.

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