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Nearly All Points Still on Slippery Downhill Slope

It was not surprising that prices continued to drop at nearly all points Friday. Generally moderate weather almost everywhere, a 10.4-cent dip by June futures a day earlier and the usual weekend loss of industrial load were all bearish influences on Friday's cash market.

A few flat to about a nickel higher locations primarily in the Gulf Coast, Midcontinent and Mid-Atlantic avoided overall declines ranging from 2-3 cents to about a quarter. The West and Northeast had nearly all of the double-digit dips.

Futures perked up again, with Friday's prompt-month contract increase of 13.6 cents (see related story) providing some support for cash trading Monday.

A forecast of scattered severe thunderstorms by The Weather Channel was expected to dampen any potential cooling demand from the lower Midwest into part of the Midcontinent. On the other hand, more locations in the South were predicted to start reaching highs around 90 during the weekend; the possibility of cooling load ramping may have helped Friday's screen gain and could be a factor in a potential cash rally early this week.

But for the time being, temperatures were staying mild to cool in the Midwest and Northeast, so those two key market areas had essentially nothing to contribute in weather-based demand. And moderating trends in the Rockies and Western Canada meant that the West also had little of either heating or cooling load.

The Louisiana Department of Natural Resources reported that as of Friday its latest figures had 167 out of 592 (28%) of the producing oil and gas wells in the potential flood inundation area shut in (see related story). That represented 31.54 MMcf/d of gas and 3,785 b/d of oil and condensate output, said Anna Dearmon of the Office of Conservation.

Both SoCalGas and PG&E had high-linepack OFOs in effect going into the weekend (see Transportation Notes). IntercontinentalExchange (ICE) reported Southern California border prices down about 20 cents but said volumes traded there on its online platform rose from 568,100 MMBtu Thursday to 705,600 MMBtu Friday. The PG&E citygate saw a drop of about a dime, and ICE citygate trading dropped from 1,403,000 MMBtu to 1,244,100 MMBtu.

Despite prices slipping a couple of pennies, the MichCon citygate was up to 628,100 MMBtu from Thursday's 575,100 MMBtu in ICE trading.

A Florida trader said state temperatures were due to get warmer over the weekend, but her company didn't buy any spot gas because it was working off previous positive imbalances. A unit outage by a power generation client meant the company "had almost no gas burns" earlier in the week and actually was in a gas selling mode for most of the week, she said.

The Baker Hughes Rotary Rig Count found a further drop of eight rigs to 866 in gas-directed activity during the week ending May 20. Two units were deactivated in the Gulf of Mexico, Baker Hughes said, while the onshore count fell by six. Its latest tally was 1% lower than a month ago and down 11% from the year-earlier level.

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