Friday lows in the teens and 20s stretching from the Rockies and Western Canada through the Midcontinent/Midwest into the Mid-Atlantic, Northeast and Eastern Canada were insufficient to prevent spot prices from continuing to fall at nearly all points Thursday, although the declines were smaller than those of the day before in most cases.

Delivered numbers again saw triple-digit declines of up to about $2.10 at several Northeast citygates, although there were also a few hefty increases in the regional mix. The Florida citygate also realized a big decrease of nearly $2.

IntercontinentalExchange (ICE) reported the day's top drop at more than $10 at the Cove Point LNG terminal in Maryland.

Most of the cash market recorded relatively modest declines ranging from a couple of pennies to a dime or so, although a few Northeast locations that failed to surpass the dollar mark fell by as much as about 85 cents. Dracut in New England led gains among scattered points that were flat to about 40 cents higher.

Part of the declines were due to fairly moderate conditions persisting for a bit longer from the south-central U.S. through much of California. The previous day's screen decline of 3.3 cents was also mildly bearish for cash.

The Energy Information Administration barely exceeded consensus expectations in the low 160s Bcf when it reported a storage withdrawal of 164 Bcf for the week ending Dec. 10. Despite the slight hint of bullishness, Nymex traders preferred to compare the volume to the significantly larger year-ago pull of 187 Bcf in pushing January futures 17.4 cents lower on the day (see related story).

Northern Natural Gas, which issued a System Overrun Limitation for the weekend (see Transportation Notes), said the normal system-weighted temperature in its Upper Midwest market area is 20 degrees at this time of year, but it was projecting that Thursday's average of 14 would drop to 12 Friday, nine Saturday and eight Sunday.

Algonquin citygates fell a little more than 15 cents despite the pipeline saying it had been required to seal nominations for Friday on gas sourced upstream for delivery downstream of the Cromwell, Stony Point and Burrillville compressor stations.

Even with winter not having officially begun yet, it's still very cold in his company's service area, said a utility buyer in the South. He didn't see any substantive break in the cold until at least Christmas weekend or later.

The buyer said the utility had pulled about 40-45% more out of its storage accounts than it had expected so far in December. Maybe the typically lower demand of the two holiday weekends coming up will allow it to slow down storage draws, he said.

Nominated volumes for Thursday flow plummeted at several of the major trading points covered by Bentek Energy's U.S. Natural Gas Hub Flows chart. The biggest decline of 677,000 MMBtu to 4,002,000 MMBtu (down 14%) occurred at Texas Eastern M-3, where prices fell $3.80 Wednesday and continued to drop by a little more than a dollar Thursday. But the biggest percentage dip of 40% was at Northern Natural-demarc, down 190,000 MMBtu to 281,000 MMBtu, Bentek said. Other triple-digit plunges (percentages in parentheses) were recorded by the Florida citygate, down 584,000 MMBtu (15%); Columbia Gas, down 387,000 MMBtu (7%); the Chicago citygate, down 299,000 MMBtu (9%); and ANR-Louisiana, down 190,000 MMBtu (19%).

Only two points in the Bentek report saw increases of more than 100,000 MMBtu: the Southern California border, up 265,000 MMBtu (9%); and Transco Zone 4, up 104,000 MMBtu (4%).

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