On the verge of Tuesday's official start of winter, it seemed like the season had already gotten off to a strong start last week but was tending to recede a bit. However, except for some fairly big slides from last week's $10-plus heights in the Northeast, most points registered moderate increases Monday.

Besides lingering cold weather in many areas, the return of industrial load after a weekend layoff had a slightly bullish impact. The previous Friday's gain of 1.8 cents by January futures was relatively negligible.

Most of the market was flat to about 15 cents higher. Declines ranging from about a nickel to about $1.20 were concentrated in the Northeast, where a weekend winter storm was starting to yield to nominally warmer temperatures.

The cash market should have ample futures backing Tuesday after Nymex's January natural gas contract rose by 17.1 cents Monday (see related story).

Besides falling about 80 cents on the IntercontinentalExchange (ICE) online trading platform, Algonquin citygate volumes fell from 111,600 MMBtu Friday to 88,500 MMBtu Monday, ICE said.

Even with Florida Gas Transmission issuing an Overage Alert Day (see Transportation Notes), the Florida citygate was a rare location outside the Northeast where prices fell. However, cold weather-related restrictions were ending on pipes such as Northern Natural Gas and MRT.

Although freezing conditions were easing a bit from the Northeast though the South, a stormy Tuesday was in store for large portions of the U.S., including fairly heavy snowfalls continuing in the Midwest and higher-elevation regions of the West, according to The Weather Channel (TWC). Even the Northeast can't rest easy, TWC said, as the Midwest's current storm, although weakening, would be moving eastward.

A Rockies producer observed that relatively moderate local conditions "would be considered balmy in Minnesota," where the Vikings football team would be playing a rare outdoor game Monday night after the roof of the team's domed stadium home collapsed from snow last week. However, he wasn't surprised by Monday's general price firmness; the six- to 10-day forecast was getting colder again, he said.

"Normal cold" would be just fine for the Rockies market, he continued, but it's too mild currently to give any substantive boost to gas prices.

The producer said he was according Bison Pipeline a better chance of starting up in mid-January than Ruby Pipeline meeting its new in-service schedule of early summer. He scorned a recent prediction that the additions of Bison and Ruby to Rockies takeaway capacity would outweigh the region's production capability. Producers will grow their output to fill both pipes easily, he said.

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