While nearly all of the rest of the market was seeing losses that were mostly in double digits Wednesday, an arctic cold front was generating triple-digit spikes at many of the Northeast citygates. General softness elsewhere was based chiefly on areas either already sustaining cool to moderate conditions or moving back in that direction. The previous day's downturn of 16.4 cents by April futures provided further negative guidance for the cash market.

All of the quotes that were flat to about $3.65 higher were in the Northeast, with Iroquois Zone 2 claiming the top increase. The windy and snowy front that had moved into the region is expected to create lows in the teens and 20s in most sections Thursday, while upper New England can expect some bottom-end readings just above zero.

Losses ranged from a couple of pennies to nearly 20 cents and, except for single-digit dips at all three Western Canada points, were fairly evenly distributed among non-Northeast geographic areas.

The South and parts of the Southwest haven't experienced much heating load recently with highs in the 70s, and that will continue for a while longer. Meanwhile, much of the Midwest, Upper Plains and Rockies can still be described as cold through at least Thursday, but their temperatures are making an uphill climb.

Prior-day screen support will remain lacking Thursday, but guidance will be less negative than before as prompt-month futures fell only 5.5 cents (see related story).

Scheduled volumes for Wednesday were down at a modest majority of the 23 pricing points covered in Bentek Energy's U.S. Natural Gas Hub Flows chart. Nominations drops included Texas Eastern M-3, down 246,000 MMBtu to 3,780 MMBtu (6%); the Florida and PG&E citygates, down 166,0000 MMBtu to 2,442,000 MMBtu (6%) and 150,000 MMBtu to 2,460,000 MMBtu (6%), respectively; and Waha, down 118,000 MMBtu to 655,000 MMBtu (15%). A couple of the biggest gains occurred at Columbia Gas in Appalachia, up 287,000 MMBtu to 4,567 MMBtu (7%), and Northern Natural-demarc, up 250,000 MMBtu to 899,000 MMBtu (39%), Bentek said.

The rise in demarc flows was almost undoubtedly due to the pipeline having a System Overrun Limitation in place for Wednesday in a market-area zone (see Transportation Notes).

Iroquois Zone 2 may have recorded Wednesday's biggest increase, but its trading volume on IntercontinentalExchange fell from 147,000 MMBtu Tuesday to 114,200 MMBtu Wednesday.

A utility buyer in the South said his company was on target for a smooth transition into spring, with local conditions getting closer to a normal winter after the frigid weather from December through early February. Because of the milder temperatures and a TGT waiver on storage-reduction requirements, the utility has stopped pulling gas out of storage entirely and next week can start the refill process early "if we want."

The buyer said he probably will start checking out some potential April-October deals soon, but he added that he would buy smaller summer term volumes than in previous years because of the company's comfort level and flexibility on storage.

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