With North America girding once more to do battle with bone-chilling temperatures and plenty of icy precipitation, higher prices came as a surprise for no one Friday. Multi-dollar leaps reigned again in the Northeast, while the rest of the market saw gains ranging from about a nickel to nearly 30 cents. The smallest increases were concentrated in the Midcontinent and Rockies areas.

Transco Zone 6-New York barely edged out Iroquois Zone 2 for top quote of the day, exceeding the Iroquois point's $20 by a quarter. The Transco citygate clearly was in the lead for biggest average, falling about a dime shy of $19, according to IntercontinentalExchange (ICE). However, Iroquois Zone 2 recorded the largest increase in average of about $5.45.

Cash traders had two days of prior-day screen support, and it will continue Monday -- albeit at a lighter level -- after February futures tacked on another 4.1 cents Friday (see related story).

The Katy Hub west of Houston remains a highly popular transfer interconnect. After two straight days of ICE activity between 1,100,000 MMBtu and 1,200,000 MMBtu, Katy quotes climbed about 15 cents on the ICE platform Friday while making another great leap forward in recording 1,243,400 MMBtu worth of transactions for the weekend. Volumes at the neighboring Houston Ship Channel languished in comparison, though, as Thursday's ICE volume of 339,600 MMBtu shrank to 226,900 MMBtu Friday.

Henry Hub's uptick of about 15 cents left averaging about $4.72, or near parity with prompt-month futures, while the CIG-Henry Hub basis spread -- closely monitored by some Rockies producers -- widened a bit from 39 cents Thursday to about 44 cents Friday.

Although a repeat of New England's record-setting blizzard during the Dec. 7-13 week isn't expected, residents of the region and the Northeast in general will find plenty to cope with in the way of low temperatures and icy precipitation. It will be even worse to the west, according to The Weather Channel (TWC), as bitterly cold temperatures and wind chills are expected across the Upper Midwest. It will be slightly more bearable in the Midwest's southern reaches, TWC said, but snow showers were possible for much of the Plains and Mississippi Valley as a weak system moves through the region, and some lake-effect snows were possible near the Great Lakes.

The South can expect to see the break from severe winter weather that it was getting earlier last week fading away over the weekend, but this time the blast of cold is unlikely to be as harsh as the one preceding it. Even with freezing lows in the Rockies, the West remains the overall mildest part of the U.S.

The addition of Critical Day 1 OFOs in Tennessee's two farthest downstream zones (see Transportation Notes) were the only significant new pipeline actions taken to restrict shippers from running negative imbalances.

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