With colder weather gradually building across much of the eastern half of the U.S., prices were up -- by small amounts in a large majority of cases -- at nearly all points Thursday. The 8.9-cent rebound by January futures a day earlier also contributed to cash strength.

Most points were flat to about 45 cents higher, with several Northeast locations, particularly those in New England, way out in front of the upward charge. New England, which had been considerably milder than usual through Wednesday, is starting to feel the sting of freezing overnight lows.

A few scattered points recorded rather minuscule drops of 2-4 cents or so.

The Energy Information Administration's report of a 23 Bcf storage withdrawal during the week ending Nov. 26 fell short of consensus expectations in the upper 20s Bcf. Despite initially going lower in response to the news, January futures later rebounded to close out the day 7.4 cents higher (see related story).

The area from the Mid-South through California, including much of the Midcontinent, will remain moderate to cool going into the weekend, but colder-than-normal conditions will be moving into the East Coast and Southeast next week, according to The Weather Channel. And even with overnight temperatures reaching the freezing area, the Rockies are still finding fairly comfortable daytime highs in the 50s.

Even though average pricing in Transco's Zone 6-New York pool rose by a hefty near-quarter on IntercontinentalExchange's (ICE) online platform, ICE said trading volumes fell from 312,400 MMBtu Wednesday to 251,500 MMBtu Thursday. On the other hand, Houston Ship Channel activity on ICE surged from 248,300 MMBtu to 328,200 MMBtu despite prices there rising less than a nickel.

Florida Gas Transmission kept an Overage Alert Day in place through at least Thursday due to cold weather in its market area but loosened the tolerance for negative daily imbalances from 20% to 25%.

Low-linepack issues in the West continued to ease as Transwestern canceled an Alert Day for the West of Thoreau area (see Transportation Notes). In fact, the pendulum was starting to swing the other way as El Paso said it had set the probability of declaring a Strained Operating Condition or Critical Operating Condition to moderate because of high linepack.

A Rockies producer noted that the CIG-Henry Hub basis spread had widened to about 30 cents (CIG lower) Thursday after CIG had jumped out to a rare 11-cent premium over the Hub ($4.23 versus $4.12) as recently as last Monday.

He said he and other area producers were "disappointed but not surprised" by the news of a further delay in projected start-up of Bison Pipeline service (see Transportation Notes). Another takeaway outlet, Ruby Pipeline, is expected to come online in June next year, he said, "but we [producers] don't think they'll make that [deadline]."

However, cold weather usually keeps the Rockies market fairly buoyant during the winter anyway, the producer continued, so that will make the most recent Bison delay not so hard to take. Rockies production tends to need extra takeaway capacity most in the spring and fall, he said. He expects CIG and Henry Hub to stay near parity for most of the foreseeable future after service has begun on both Bison and Ruby.

The producer said he finds it impossible to understand why the U.S. is still receiving any liquefied natural gas at all when it can be sold in the United Kingdom for something like $9/MMBtu.

Area temperatures were a little warmer Thursday than had been expected, said a Midwest utility buyer, but his company was still realizing strong gas throughput because of significant heating load. Conditions will get slightly warmer again this weekend, he said, but overall demand is not expected to slack off to any major degree.

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