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Most Points Record Modest Price Declines

Mild softness dominated the cash market Tuesday. There was still a little bit of both heating load in Canada and the northern U.S. and cooling load in the southern tier of states, but neither demand source was strong enough to support spot prices. The previous day's decline of 2.3 cents by May futures, which will expire Wednesday, was another slightly bearish influence for the physical market.

Near-flat numbers ruled Tuesday's trading as only a few locations varied by a nickel or more from unchanged. Losses ranged from 2-3 cents to a little more than a dime, while the rest of the market was flat to about a dime higher.

Nymex guidance will be neutral for cash traders Wednesday after the prompt-month futures contract barely budged in closing down 0.2 cent (see related story).

The Florida citygate saw Tuesday's biggest gain of about a dime as Florida Gas Transmission notified shippers of a potential Overage Alert Day due to hot market-area forecasts.

It's definitely shoulder month weather for the gas market as merely cool conditions in northern market areas combine with only moderate heat across the South to produce fairly little in the way of either heating or air conditioning demand. A relatively high level of nuclear plant maintenance and/or refueling outages apparently isn't having much impact on the gas market.

The pipeline scene overall was quiet as none of them had any substantial constraints to report.

But Kern River said no doubt, it's getting warmer in the Rockies. It projected highs at its main production source of the Opal Plant in Wyoming rising from 38 Tuesday to the mid to upper 50s Thursday, although the low was only expected to increase about 10 degrees from Tuesday's level of 16.

It failed to support Midwest prices for the most part, but a marketer in the region said it was "too cold for spring" with Michigan and Chicago-area temperatures expected to bottom out in the mid 40s Wednesday. She reported hearing forecasts of below-normal temperatures in the Midwest continuing through July, adding, "La Nina is not being cooperative." Her company has been buying spot gas over the past week or so to meet the heating needs of clients, she said.

Bentek Energy's U.S Natural Gas Hub Flows chart showed big downturns in nominated flows for Tuesday at three key trading points. MichCon fell by 340,000 MMBtu (21%); Columbia Gas (TCO) in Appalachia volumes dropped 330,000 MMBtu (10%); and Transco Zone 4 was 318,000 MMBtu lower (14%), the consulting firm said. The only significant increases it found were at Texas Eastern M-3, up 175,000 MMBtu (8%); Malin, up 147,000 MMBtu (10%); and Tennessee Zone 0, up 104,000 MMBtu (22%).

IntercontinentalExchange (ICE) saw little movement in bidweek pricing, but most of it was slightly softer. CIG fell 3 cents from Monday's average of $3.995, ICE said, while the PG&E citygate dropped a couple of pennies to $4.43 Tuesday. The Southern California border managed to eke out a minuscule gain of less than a penny to about $4.30, ICE said.

Credit Suisse analysts Hugh Li and Stefan Revielle expect a 35 Bcf storage injection to be reported for the week ending April 22, which they said would bring total working gas inventories to 1,689 Bcf, or 211 Bcf less than the year-ago level. Stephen Smith of Stephen Smith Energy Associates also anticipates a 35 Bcf build, which he had lowered from an original estimate of 38 Bcf.

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