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Screen, Some Bullish Weather Boost Most Points

Spot prices saved their best for last -- at least in the viewpoint of bullish traders -- by making the strongest gains of last week virtually across the board on Friday. A large futures uptick a day earlier combined with increasing weather-based load in some areas to support the physical market.

Flat numbers at Florida Gas Transmission's Zone 3 and a minuscule drop of about 2 cents at the Leidy Hub were exceptions to increases ranging from a couple of pennies to about a quarter. Unlike the single-digit and often flat (or near it) price changes that had dominated from Monday through Thursday, a large number of Friday's numbers exceeded a dime.

June futures followed up Thursday's storage report-sparked increase of 16.3 cents by tacking on another 12.7 cents Friday (see related story), promising further support for cash trading Monday.

It's that time of year when only extreme temperature variations below or above normal will really matter in gas demand. But in little more than a month above-normal readings will begin to make more of a difference.

Nevertheless, highs were about to rise to around 80 or higher in much of the South, although a cold front moving into the western end would be bringing Houston-area peaks down from the upper 80s Sunday to the mid 70s Monday and Tuesday. The Midwest was mixed again, with such cities as Chicago warming and Minneapolis cooling to a low not far above freezing. The Northeast would be seeing little change from cool in the near term, while Rockies sinking to around freezing would be a deviation from generally moderate conditions in the West.

Shippers must have responded to PG&E's Thursday projection of excess linepack Saturday and Sunday because Friday the combination utility said linepack appeared likely to remain within target levels through the weekend. And Kern River said linepack had returned to normal levels after being slightly below its minimum target levels for the previous two days.

Along with a Henry Hub increase of nearly 15 cents, IntercontinentalExchange (ICE) recorded a major trading uptick there on its platform from 755,900 MMBtu Thursday to 980,500 MMBtu Friday. But at the Houston Ship Channel, up a little more than a dime, the gain in ICE volumes was more subdued in going from 170,800 MMBtu to 244,800 MMBtu. That may be attributable to Houston-area highs in the mid to upper 80s during the weekend dipping to the mid 70s Monday.

A Southern utility buyer said his company was seeing light demand in its service area, with cool nights largely offsetting warm daytime hours. However, it actually might pick up some heating load early this week when highs are likely to dip into the 50s, he said. That might lower the utility's ability to meet planned storage injections temporarily, he said.

A Florida trader said it had cooled off slightly since earlier in the week (which prompted Florida Gas Transmission to end an Overage Alert), but the area would be getting more heat around Monday. However, he said it probably would not be enough to raise cooling load substantially.

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