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Near-Flat and Lower Pricing Dominates Market

"Summer doldrums" appeared to be an apt description of Thursday's cash market as few points budged much from their previous-day positions and weather patterns weren't showing a great deal of change either. A large majority of points were flat to slightly softer despite forecasts of hot temperatures continuing into next week for most of the eastern two-thirds of the U.S.

Many locations saw little pricing change in either direction. A couple of Rockies points rose by about a nickel, but generally the market was flat to down nearly 20 cents, although only a few losses exceeded about a nickel.

The Energy Information Administration's report of an 84 Bcf storage build for the week ending July 8 exceeded consensus expectations in the upper 70s Bcf. But a bearish reaction by Nymex traders was muted as the prompt-month August contract ended the day only 2.5 cents lower (see related story).

Other than some changes like Atlanta highs sinking from the mid 90s to the upper 80s Friday, there was little dramatic movement in the overall weather outlook: warm to hot across the southern third of the U.S.; medium-warm in the Northeast and Midwest; and cool along the West Coast and in Canada, although the Rockies were somewhat of a western exception with Denver expected to peak in the low 90s.

Northern Natural Gas indicated the extent of a warm-up returning in the Upper Midwest, as a bulletin board posting projected that Thursday's near-normal system-weighted temperature around 72 degrees would be rising to 80, 82 and 86 on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, respectively.

However, The Weather Channel said a slight break in the heat is coming to the South over the next few days as a cold front moves in.

The National Hurricane Center continued to report nothing of any substance in Atlantic tropical activity.

SoCalGas issued a high-linepack OFO, and the SoCal citygate was down a little more than a nickel in IntercontinentalExchange (ICE) trading, although activity at that point only dropped from 588,300 MMBtu Wednesday to 536,700 MMBtu Thursday, ICE said.

Houston Ship Channel and Katy Hub prices were flat despite area forecasts continuing to call for upper 90s highs in the area through early next week.

During the July 19-23 period the National Weather Service (NWS) predicts above-normal temperatures everywhere except in Florida east of a line running from central Montana through western Arizona. Most of the West Coast as far south as central California is expected to continue experiencing below-normal readings. The Midwest had the largest concentration of higher-than-normal temperatures in that time, NWS said.

Excess supply issues were in play in some western markets as El Paso said its probability of declaring a Strained Operating Condition due to high linepack had been set to high, and Westcoast said a high-linepack OFO had been implemented (see Transportation Notes).

A Midwest marketer said Thursday was the first day in the week that her company had bought any spot gas, and she regretted that prices were still a bit higher than her customers would like.

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