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Most Prices Up Again, But Not as Strongly

Nearly all of the cash market continued to rise Tuesday, but its recent overall bullishness may be coming to an end as weather-based load diminishes and prior-trading day futures guidance grows a bit more negative.

A few scattered flat locations and an Empress drop of a little more than C10 cents were exceptions to upticks ranging from 2-3 cents to a little more than 20 cents. Whereas double-digit gains had been dominant a day earlier, only several Northeast market-related managed to increase by a dime or more Tuesday.

Following strong support for cash numbers last Friday, Nymex guidance turned essentially neutral with Monday's drop of a half-cent by June futures and eroded slightly further as the prompt-month contract slid another 2.3 cents Tuesday (see related story).

PG&E declared a low-inventory OFO (see Transportation Notes), which was a factor in PG&E citygate prices rising a little more than a nickel while IntercontinentalExchange (ICE) said citygate trading on its platform soared from 843,000 MMBtu Monday to 1,286,800 MMBtu Tuesday. Also in the West, Westcoast was reporting low linepack Tuesday.

Temperature trends were hardly consistent. New England readings would generally be slipping by less than 10 degrees, but cooler trends would be quite a bit more pronounced toward the lower Northeast, with Philadelphia expected to reach a warmish high around 80 Tuesday and then plummet to the low 60s Wednesday, according to Madison, WI-based Weather Central.

But to the west most Midwest locations could anticipate warmer conditions, although again not consistently, with some such as the Des Moines, IA, area likely to peak around 70, while a forecast of showers was likely to keep Milwaukee limited to the mid 50s, Weather Central said.

It was a similar story in the South, where the region's eastern half could look for dropping temperatures while the western half warmed up from recent unseasonably cool conditions. Very warm to hot weather is due from parts of the desert Southwest through much of California, while the forecast remains mild to chilly from the Rockies through the Pacific Northwest and into much of Canada.

A Midwest utility buyer said his area could definitely perceive a warming trend as temperatures got up to the 60s Tuesday afternoon following an overnight low in the 30s. There has been an obvious resultant dropoff in the utility's heating demand, but "it's just normal temps" for this time of year, he said. It looks as if the company's service area is finally leaving serious cold behind in 2011 until sometime next fall, he added.

The buyer said he had to make some small spot gas purchases for the first three days of May but probably will be able to suspend that for the rest of the month. The company can't buy for storage yet because Northern Natural Gas doesn't allow customers to begin injections until June 1 each year, he noted.

IAF Advisors analyst Kyle Cooper predicted a 71 Bcf storage build for the week ending April 29. Stephen Smith of Stephen Smith Energy Associates had a significantly lower outlook of 64 Bcf, which he said was up from his previous estimate of 61 Bcf.

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