Is the latter half of January going to be extra-cold (quite bullish) or merely seasonable (somewhat bearish)? A lot of money could be riding on making the best strategic trading choices in such circumstances, and a few traders have indicated that they're not sure what path to follow.

That left many taking a "wait and see" attitude Thursday as a handful of points notching double-digit gains in the Northeast bucked the overall trend of mostly flat prices elsewhere. All points had negative futures guidance from Wednesday's 19.6-cent loss by the prompt-month contract, although a storm developing by the weekend in the Northeast boosted numbers there (see related story). But despite an upward screen kick following the Energy Information Administration's report of a 135 withdrawal from storage in the week ending Dec, 31, February futures retreated with a loss of 3.9 cents to close at $4.434, nearly a nickel below NGI's Henry Hub daily posting of $4.48.

A couple of cold weather-based pipeline constraints were beginning, but no major OFOs were in sight as of Thursday.

A Gulf Coast producer said he was "staying on the sidelines" in regard to weather forecasts because they just kept shifting back and forth almost daily. Instead, he preferred to "play the market by ear," trading gas based on what's really going on currently instead of what some people a few days earlier thought "might" happen.

Naturally his company will keep selling gas as circumstances dictate, but will not base its trading strategies on intermediate-term weather predictions.

The producer said he did more business than usual in the production area and less in the market area. However, the company has enough transport capacity under contract to move most of its own gas. That doesn't help much during periods of slack demand, he said, but can be very advantageous if the latter half of January proves to be as cold as some expect and interruptible space virtually disappears.

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