A large majority of points was softer for the weekend, and although moderate gains continued at several Northeast points Friday, they were nowhere near the triple-digit spikes that had reigned in the previous two days. In fact, a few Northeast points showed softness of their own. Transco Zone 5 (Mid-Atlantic) took the biggest dive of a little more than $1.40.
Along with a few scattered flat points, most of the market recorded losses ranging from 2-3 cents to a little more than half a dollar. Besides relatively moderate weekend forecasts for midwinter along the southern tier of states and into much of California and parts of the Rockies, the February futures expiration-day drop of 17.5 cents a day earlier and the typical demand shrinkage of a weekend period were other bearish factors in the cash market.
Indications continue to point to a large storm forming amidst a building temperature contrast over the midsection of the U.S., according to Alex Sosnowski, senior meteorologist for AccuWeather.com. He said the storm will affect "many millions of people from the interior West to the Atlantic Coast" as this week progresses. AccuWeather.com is calling this system the Groundhog Day (Feb. 2) storm, and said it likely will cause canceled flights, school delays and closure from Wednesday onward.
Snowfall was expected to be considerably lighter than that of a couple of recent storms from a fast-moving storm entering the Northeast late Friday, The Weather Channel said. However, both that region and much of the Midwest could expect somewhat frigid conditions to remain into the weekend. Western storms are likely to remain limited to the Pacific Northwest and some surrounding areas, while outside some snow showers in Virginia, some in the South may think they're seeing hints of early spring in the weekend weather.
Despite rising nearly a half dollar on the IntercontinentalExchange (ICE) online platform, Texas Eastern M-3 took a sharp drop in ICE trading volumes from 542,800 MMBtu Thursday to 383,000 MMBtu Friday.
But on the Gulf Coast, while Transco Station 85 (Zone 4) prices dropped a little more than 15 cents, ICE said its Station 85 volumes soared from 557,400 MMBtu to 716,300 MMBtu for the weekend.
Reporting a normal system-weighted temperature of 16 degrees at this time of year, Northern Natural Gas expected its average to be slightly above that at 19 Saturday, but then to plunge to 7 degrees Sunday and 1 degree Monday. It will have System Overrun Limitations in effect for all market-area zones Sunday and Monday.
A Texas-based marketer said he thought nearly all February baseload business had been completed Friday. He said there had been a few Chicago citygate deals done at $4.47-48 that day, which helped confirm that bidweek numbers were still on a downward trend but at a slower pace. He estimated a Chicago index of $4.61 for February.
Referring to AccuWeather.com's prediction of a "Groundhog Day storm," the marketer said such an event could become a significant price booster, but that would largely be a function of how much of the forecast was "hype" and how much of it turns out to be reality.
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