With more spring-like conditions having replaced the prevalent bitter cold of the past two weeks in many market regions, a majority of points recorded losses ranging from 2-3 cents to about a dime, with only a couple of them being more than single digits. The Northeast, which is getting what is expected to be short-lived return of wintry weather, was home to most of the locations that were flat to about 95 cents higher.

Cash traders also had negative guidance from the previous Friday's loss of 7.6 cents by March futures. However, they can count on a tiny bit of support Tuesday after the prompt-month contract rallied by 1.5 cents Monday after spending much of the day in the red (see related story).

Winter is "far from over," cautioned Weather 2000 as it predicted Monday that ample Canadian polar air will soon return to the northern U.S. New England is likely to be 25 degrees colder Tuesday than models originally thought, and more polar waves will be returning in the North this weekend through early March, said the New York City-based forecasting firm.

Although the current storm in the Northeast will be passing out into the Canadian Maritimes region by Tuesday, it will leave behind temperatures five to 15 degrees below average in New York and New England, The Weather Channel said. New York City is expected to drop from 50 Monday to about 34 Tuesday.

Although virtually all substantive cold weather-based pipe restrictions had disappeared before the end of the weekend, the renewed northeastern chill prompted Tennessee to discourage negative shipper imbalances in four production-area zones, while affiliates Texas Eastern and Algonquin were encouraging negative imbalances in their market-area service territories (see Transportation Notes).

Outside the Northeast, most of the Midwest was still feeling temperatures in the freezing area, but at least that represented a warm-up from last week. Most of the newfound western chill was settling along the West Coast, with relative moderation in much of the Rockies despite some snowfall in the mountains, TWC said. Moderate to chilly conditions describes most of the South's current outlook.

There was still some ice on the ground, but most of it had melted by Monday, said a Midcontinent producer. He noted that prices, although generally soft, came back up slightly near the end, which he thought was chiefly due to some people trying to replace storage used in the last two weeks (of course, that doesn't apply to those required to empty or greatly reduce their storage accounts by the end of March).

The producer observed that in the last two weeks much of the cash market has traded at a premium to prompt-month futures, but by now a majority of production-area locations are back to slightly below the screen.

A Houston-based marketer said nothing was in sight as a real weather price booster through around the end of February and maybe beyond, although he doesn't doubt that at least one more cold blast will arrive within the next month or two. The market has gotten pretty quiet now that the winter storm havoc of the last two weeks has pretty much faded away except in the Northeast, he said.

It's too early for serious bidweek trading, the marketer said, although he allowed that probably a few March deals are getting done here and there already, "but that's normal" for the market.

Gas-seeking drilling rigs in the U.S. fell by five to 906 during the week ending Feb. 11, reports the Baker Hughes Rotary Rig Count. All five deactivated rigs were onshore; the Gulf of Mexico tally was unchanged, Baker Hughes said. Its latest gas rig count was flat from the month-earlier level and 2% less than a year ago.

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