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Weekend Prices Extend Drops at Nearly All Points

Prices continued to fall at a large majority of points Friday despite a few slight reversals of cooling trends. The overall diminution of air conditioning load from earlier in the week was still largely in place, and it was abetted by the previous day's 8.4-cent decline by August futures following a bearish storage report and the usual drop of industrial load during a weekend in pushing cash numbers lower.

Flat numbers at the Algonquin citygate, Transco Zone 1 and Texas Eastern M-1 (24-inch line), along with gains of nearly a dime at ANR ML-7 and Iroquois Zone 1, were the exceptions to overall losses ranging from a little less than a nickel to about 15 cents. Most of the declines were in single digits, with the largest ones concentrated in the California market. Westcoast Station 2 had the first sub-$3 quotes in a long time.

Although prompt-month futures were a negative influence on Friday's cash market, they will be an upbeat note Monday after rebounding by 7.2 cents (see related story).

The National Hurricane Center on Friday downgraded to near zero the development chances of an elongated low-pressure area extending from the eastern Gulf of Mexico northeastward across northern Florida. The system's primary market impact continued to be dampening power generation load in Florida and to a lesser extent parts of the Southeast.

Weekend weather forecasts were generally neutral for Friday's market, with many areas seeing little change in highs. However, minor creeps upward in temperatures were expected in the key market areas of the Northeast, Midwest and South. The Rockies/inland California and desert Southwest were due to maintain their hot and very hot respective conditions, while it would be mild to cool as usual in the rest of the West.

SoCalGas declared a high-linepack OFO for Saturday, and Southern California border prices saw one of Friday's biggest price dips of a little more than 15 cents. However, IntercontinentalExchange reported that border volumes traded on its platform rose from 755,100 MMBtu Thursday to 815,800 MMBtu Friday.

PG&E followed through on its announcement that it anticipated a long string of high/low-inventory OFOs, possibly through the end of the year, by extending Friday's OFO through at least Saturday and continued to project a narrow band of desirable linepack limits.

Westcoast reported high linepack for a fourth straight day, and Station 2 prices continued to command the low end of the market with a decrease of nearly C15 cents to the C$3 area. Sumas was affected likewise with a drop about 15 cents; however, its average around $3.80 sustained an extra-large premium to Station 2 numbers.

It was "typical" weekend softness, said a Texas-based marketer, but he expects a general rally Monday based on the heat forecasts for most of the eastern two-thirds of the U.S. as the coming week progresses. He noted that Boston-area temperatures would be rising into the mid 80s Tuesday after sinking into the low 70s Friday.

A Florida buyer said his company was purchasing only small amounts of spot gas, having baseloaded a fairly large volume for July. It had expected more demand than has actually occurred so far this month, with the low-pressure area's rains currently dampening air conditioning use in virtually all of the Sunshine State, he said. The company is waiting for more heat to ramp up demand for its baseload supplies and suspects that may finally happen in the coming week.

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