Losses constituted a moderate majority in a mixed market Thursday as most points were less than a nickel up or down from unchanged. Several of the Northeast citygates that had spiked so hugely Tuesday continued multi-dollar slides that brought them back to the general vicinity of their pre-holiday price levels.

In most trading many numbers were flat while others ranged to nearly 30 cents higher or a little more than a nickel lower. Few of those movements exceeded a nickel. Triple-digit plunges of just over $3 to nearly $5.15 were seen at most Northeast points, although two citygates (Texas Eastern M-3 and Transco Zone 6's non-New York pool) were again out of step with the regional trend as they were flat to barely lower.

A winter storm still occupying the Pacific Northwest-Rockies generated the three biggest increases at Kingsgate, Sumas and Stanfield, although almost no movement occurred in Western Canada pricing. Colder temperatures were also spreading into the Southwest. The area from the Plains through the Midwest into the Northeast was getting brushed by the mass of arctic air arriving from Canada, but few harsh conditions were expected through Friday. Cooling trends were about to start in much of the South, but the region was due to remain relatively mild as far west as Texas.

The three Iroquois points recorded some of the biggest declines, with the Waddington location leading the way, as TransCanada reported that a drop in firm nominations and lighter market demand allowed it to begin authorizing some "discretionary" service through its ruptured segment. Also, TransCanada estimated that Line 3 in the area would return to service late Saturday (see Transportation Notes), leaving only one of the three lines there still isolated.

The 81 Bcf storage withdrawal reported by the Energy Information Administration for the week ending Feb. 18 met expectations, although it was at the low end of consensus prior estimates in the low to mid 80s Bcf. Because the most recent pull was barely more than a third of the previous week's 233 Bcf number and much less than the comparable year-ago draw and five-year average, Nymex gas traders continued to pay essentially no heed to the fireworks in the petroleum futures complex and sent the March gas contract off the board down 10.7 cents to $3.793 (see related story).

As a result of moderate warming trends in such major New England market areas as Boston, trading at the Algonquin citygate on the IntercontinentalExchange (ICE) platform fell by more than half from 198,200 MMBtu Wednesday to 81,200 MMBtu Thursday. The price plunged by nearly $3, ICE said.

Referring to the latest delay to July in completing Ruby Pipeline (see related story), a Rockies producer said it's OK as long as El Paso finishes Ruby before the fall shoulder season starts, when its addition to capacity will be needed most. Some regional producers thought it might not happen until the end of the year, he said, because they remember the lengthy series of delays experienced by Rockies Express.

The producer said he regrets indexes going way down for March, but he acknowledged that after all, it does mark the start of shoulder month season. What annoyed him most was that the indexes are falling from already very low levels. "You'd have thought" that the blizzards and severe cold that occupied most of this winter would have kept prices higher, he added.

The only thing that's going to revive gas prices is when they stop most of the shale drilling, he said, and that's unlikely to happen until all the acreage necessary is protected under hold-by-production leases.

An Upper Midwest marketer said her company paid last-day futures settlement basis of plus 20 cents into Consumers Energy and plus 28 cents into MichCon. Her area can expect a little more snow and cold in the next couple of days, but it won't be too severe, she said.

Likely due to Upper Midwest temperatures heading downward again after a brief uptick, nominated volumes at the MichCon citygate more than doubled Thursday in rising by 273,000 MMBtu from Wednesday to 515,000 MMBtu (113%), according to the Bentek Energy U.S. Natural Gas Hub Flows chart. Columbia Gas (TCO) in Appalachia recorded by far the biggest volume drop of 843,000 MMBtu to 4,213,000 MMBtu (17%), Bentek said.

ICE indicated that bidweek quotes were still holding fairly steady in most cases. Houston Ship Channel prices averaged in the $3.76-78 area from Tuesday through Thursday, ICE said, which would be down a little more than NGI's $4.30 Ship Channel index for February.

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