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Weather, Storage, Screen Woes Weaken Nearly All Points

Where is rising gas supply supposed to go? New and ongoing restrictions on storage injections, moderate springtime weather being prevalent and a five-day string of futures losses pressured the cash market into losses at nearly all points Friday. The usual weekend decline of industrial load was an additional, albeit minor, bearish factor.

Only a Florida citygate increase of about a nickel and a slightly lower uptick at ANR ML7 avoided losses everywhere else that ranged from about a nickel to nearly 35 cents. The previous day's declines had been mostly in single digits, but double-digit losses reigned Friday.

Although May futures made a brief foray into positive territory during the morning, they wound up Friday extending their string of losing sessions to six with an eventual decline of 1.9 cents (see related story).

Despite forecasts of highs throughout the 80s across the South, they obviously weren't producing enough additional peaking power generation load to prop up the spot market (with the exception of the Florida citygate). Meanwhile, following a brief pause thermometer readings in the Northeast and Midwest were due to resume their upward march to mainly cool conditions during the weekend.

A few sub-freezing overnight lows were expected to remain in Canada but were largely being offset by daytime highs ranging from the upper 40s to the upper 50s. The western U.S. was seeing a mix of temperature trends, but overall moderation was the essence of the region's forecast.

In addition to Questar's Clay Basin storage facility being shut in through April 20, ANR, Nicor Gas and Southern are among other storage operators currently restricting injections (see Transportation Notes).

On the same day it ended a low-inventory OFO, PG&E projected linepack on its California Gas Transmission system bumping up against its maximum target levels Friday through Sunday but did not find it necessary to issue a high-inventory OFO.

IntercontinentalExchange (ICE) reported Henry Hub prices down about a nickel, while its ICE-traded volumes shrank from 1,117,800 MMBtu Thursday to 979,100 MMBtu Friday. And despite rising temperatures in Texas, ICE said Houston Ship Channel quotes fell nearly a dime while activity on its online platform dropped from 274,200 MMBtu to 178,500 MMBtu.

The National Weather Service's forecast for the April 13-17 period calls for below-normal temperatures across most of the northern third of the U.S. and extending into Northern California at the western end. The agency looks for above-normal readings in the southern tier of states but also extending into central Wyoming in the Rockies area.

Despite Oklahoma highs due to reach either side of 90 Saturday, a Midcontinent producer said he was unable to find any significant buying for power generation needs. "We're having a hard time getting rid of our gas" these days, he said. Another factor was Enogex having maintenance issues, which restricted his company's ability to move gas on Midcontinent Express Pipeline to more lucrative Gulf Coast markets. Basically the market is "waiting for [more] heat," he said, because he didn't see anything else to rally prices in the near term.

Another Midcontinent producer was in agreement about the lack of air conditioning-related demand. He said his company regularly sells summer supply to Oklahoma Gas & Electric but essentially was told "not interested, yet" when it tried to peddle some daily gas to the utility Thursday. He saw little chance for a substantive cash market rally in the next few weeks and said spot prices will probably stay below first-of-month indexes for the rest of April.

Keep an eye on the Producing Region's storage injections over the next few weeks, the producer advised. "That should tell us how much oversupplied we are."

Even in Florida, where highs have started reaching the upper 80s, a utility buyer replied "not yet" when asked about increased cooling load. He said his company's weekend load was light but might pick up this week when temperatures were predicted to get even hotter. The utility has been seeing little basis spread among Florida Gas Transmission's three production-area zones, he said, so it has been buying spot gas mostly in Zone 3 so far this month, which tends to help get around a maintenance constraint at the pipeline's Station 8.

After a couple of recent increases, the number of gas-directed drilling rigs fell by two to 889 in the week ending April 8, according to the Baker Hughes Rotary Rig Count. One rig each was deactivated onshore and in the Gulf of Mexico, Baker Hughes said. Its latest tally was up 1% from a month ago but 7% lower than the year-earlier level.

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