With some help from a 13.3-cent gain Friday in the prompt-month debut by April futures and colder forecasts for most territory east of the Mississippi River, prices firmed at nearly all points Monday. The restoration of industrial load following its usual weekend decline also contributed to the overall advance.

A dollar drop by Tennessee Zone 5 and smaller ones at a Northeast citygate and three Pacific Northwest points ran contrary to an overall market seeing prices that were flat to nearly $1.10 higher. Only the Algonquin receipts and citygate points rose more than a dollar, although several other Northeast citygates saw good-sized gains.

Nymex traders will again have support for the cash market Tuesday, but less than before as the April contract eked out an advance of 3.2 cents Monday (see related story).

The gains pretty much ignored the expiration of major constraints by Northern Natural Gas and Northwest and the addition of more capacity at TransCanada's mainline rupture site, along with a high-linepack OFO being issued by Westcoast (see Transportation Notes). The OFO failed to prevent a small uptick by Westcoast Station 2, but along with the end of the Northwest restriction it caused declines at Sumas, Kingsgate and Stanfield.

As it had expected, TransCanada restored service over the weekend through a second line at the northern Ontario site where an explosion and fire occurred Feb. 19. That left only Line 2, the one that ruptured, still isolated, and TransCanada continued to allow some discretionary service through the area following a temporary hiatus.

Although Transco Zone 6-New York was among the few softer locations, IntercontinentalExchange (ICE) said its trading volumes there more than doubled from 92,300 MMBtu Friday to 192,600 MMBtu Monday.

Northeast temperatures will take a substantial dip as a windy cold front moves through the region Tuesday night and Wednesday, The Weather Channel (TWC) said. The South also will be seeing temperatures drop, but from a noticeably higher starting base, and Southern lows will not come close to approaching the teens through 30s expected in the Northeast.

Meanwhile, the Midwest, Midcontinent and West will be partially counteracting the cooler tendencies toward their east with gradually rising mercury levels, although subfreezing lows will still be fairly common in much of the Midwest and West. And Canada can expect most areas to stay completely below freezing for a while longer.

Only normal conditions in the Florida peninsula, the western end of Texas and southern New Mexico are excepted from a National Weather Service eight- to 14-day forecast of below-normal temperatures throughout the rest of the U.S. in the March 7-13 period. The agency expects the greatest deviations below normal to occur in a strip along the Canadian border from most of Washington state through western Wisconsin.

An increase of one to 906 drilling rigs targeting gas in the U.S. during the week ending Feb. 25 reversed to a small degree a series of recent weekly declines. The Baker Hughes Rotary Rig Count said the addition of two rigs in the Gulf of Mexico was partially offset by one onshore deactivation. Its latest tally was down 1% from a month ago and flat from the year-ago level.

Saying the weather outlook is still bearish for gas, Canaccord Genuity analysts noted Monday that the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported 180 total degree days last week, up 30% week on week, 5% fewer year on year and 3% more than the long-term average. The reported degree days were 8% above the agency's preliminary forecast. For this week, the analysts said, NOAA predicts a relatively mild 143 total degree days, 12% fewer than last year and the long-term average.

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