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Cash Quotes Mostly Lower; Futures Bulls Cautiously Optimistic

Natural gas for weekend and Monday delivery showed losses at most points Friday, but a few points in the East and Northeast skewed the market with multi-dollar gains as traders loaded up ahead of snowy and blustery conditions expected early in the week.

Points in the Northeast showed the greatest gains, jumping to or even above $20, but Mid-Atlantic locations were also firm. Double-digit losses showed up in the Gulf, Midcontinent and Rockies. At the close of futures trading, February had eased 5.6 cents to $4.326 and March was down by 6.5 cents to $4.259. February crude oil added 41 cents to $94.37/bbl.

Forecasters were calling for a round of cold and snow for not only the East but also the Midwest and Ohio Valley. "The second in a round of clipper systems is expected to bring snow to the northeastern tier of the country into Friday night," said AccuWeather.com meteorologist Courtney Spamer.

"A low in northern Michigan early Friday will dive south and eastward into the eastern Great Lakes and Northeast before potentially causing a snowstorm in the Northeast by the weekend. As of Thursday evening, nearly four inches of snow fell on Marion, IN, according to a trained spotter. In Leipsic, OH, 2.5 inches also fell. The storm moved further east Friday morning and brought snow to the interior Northeast, including Pittsburgh and Buffalo during the day.

Temperatures in New England were anticipated to trend lower through the weekend. AccuWeather.com predicted that the high in Boston Friday of 45 degrees would drop to 40 on Saturday and down to 35 on Monday. The seasonal high this time of year is 35. Hartford, CT's 44 high on Friday was seen falling to 40 on Saturday and 32 on Monday. The typical mid-January high in Hartford is 34 degrees. Providence, RI's 44 maximum on Friday was anticipated to slide to 41 Saturday and drop further to 33 on Monday. The seasonal high in Providence is 37.

Weekend and Monday gas deliveries couldn't climb fast enough. Gas at the Algonquin Citygates came in at a stout $20.90, up $14.37, and deliveries upstream at Iroquois Waddington jumped $14.07 to $19.54. Gas on Tennessee Zone 6 200 L surged $15.16 to $21.95.

Points in the Mid-Atlantic were also bitten by the high-price bug, but temperatures were expected to recover from Saturday lows heading into Monday. AccuWeather.com predicted that the high in Philadelphia Friday of 47 would dip to 37 on Saturday before recovering to 41 by Monday. The normal high in Philadelphia is 40. Baltimore's Friday high of 43 was anticipated to drop to 34 Saturday before making it back up to 48 on Monday. The seasonal high in Baltimore is 41. Washington, DC's 46 high Friday was seen sliding to 36 Saturday but then rebounding to 47 on Monday. The normal high in the nation's capitol is 43.

The National Weather Service in Baltimore said on Friday that "a strong cold front associated with a clipper system will move through the area [Friday night]. High pressure will again return briefly Saturday before the next clipper system moves through Saturday night. Additional weak disturbances may pass through the middle-Atlantic region during the first half of next week. After a mild start on Monday to the work week...a cold front will pass by on Tuesday and usher in a return to colder conditions that will continue through the end of the week."

Deliveries for the weekend and Monday into Tetco M-3 Delivery came in $5.29 higher at $10.09, and gas bound for New York City on Transco Zone 6 gained a stout $12.08 to $16.95. On Dominion, parcels were quoted at $4.46, up 2 cents, and on Transco-Leidy Line gas changed hands at $3.30, down 27 cents.

Quotes at Gulf locations were seen more than a dime lower. On ANR SE gas for weekend and Monday delivery changed hands 13 cents lower at $4.28, and on Transco Zone 3 gas came in at $4.44, down 14 cents. At the Henry Hub, packages were seen at $4.39, down 15 cents, and on Tennessee 500 L gas fell 12 cents to $4.36. Deliveries to Tetco E LA dropped 11 cents to $4.29.

Rockies prices didn't fare much better than the Gulf. On CIG Mainline, weekend and Monday gas dropped 14 cents to $4.36, and at the Cheyenne Hub deliveries were seen at $4.45, down 11 cents. At Opal, parcels changed hands at $4.42, down 11 cents, and on Northwest Pipeline Wyoming gas for over the weekend and Monday skidded 13 cents to $4.38.

Futures traders saw the day's settlement as indicating a soft tone to the market. "The market never really got much above where it settled Thursday [$4.382 was February's close] so going into the close traders gave up the ghost at the end of the week," said a New York floor trader.

"This is an OK close, but it would have been better if it could have closed above $4.33. It's not a strongly supportive close, puts a damper on the upside and adds a little weight to the market," he said.

Closing prices may get somewhat firmer during the week if forecast brutally cold weather shows up. "I still think that we are ahead of the curve on what is coming. There is nothing in what is a consistent message from the GFS [Global Forecast System] operationals [weather models] that fits our pattern ideas to make me think that the cold we are calling for is not coming," said WeatherBell Analytics meteorologist Joe Bastardi.

"In fact, there is even another shot beyond the big shot that may send temperatures as low as 20 to 25 below in Chicago later [this] week [see related story]. Keep in mind the cold in front of this, early next week, is not chopped liver as it hits 0 in Chicago before that. I am using them as an example of the heartland," he said in a noon Friday weather update.

Other near-term weather forecasts turned colder overnight as well. WSI Corp. in its Friday morning six- to 10-day outlook showed below to much below normal temperatures east of a line running from North Dakota to Louisiana. West of that line is anticipated to be normal to above normal.

"[Friday's] forecast has trended much colder over the Midwest in through the Ohio Valley during the latter half of the period when compared to the previous forecast. Confidence is considered just average as a result of fair large-scale model agreement with embedded localized differences.

"Our latest in-house calibrated European ensemble model favors colder risks across much of the eastern two-thirds, including Florida, under both arctic air mass intrusions early and later in the period. Much of the interior Northwest is under a significant cold risk as there are a number of European ensemble members that push the arctic air mass across the region."

"There's cautious optimism on cold weather coming in," said the New York floor trader.

Traders suggested any additional cold was already in the market. "We are maintaining a trading theme that this week's dramatic price rebound has fully priced in some unusually cold temperature patterns that will be covering the eastern half of the U.S. through virtually the entirety of the coming two-week period," said Jim Ritterbusch of Ritterbusch and Associates.

"But we have also noted that the below-normal trends are likely to fall significantly short of the record temps seen early last week that drove yesterday's record storage reduction. From here, the next significant price move will await next week when the market will be forced to digest updates to the temperature forecasts following an extended holiday weekend at many plants and factories. This could downsize industrial offtake to some extent while placing some downside pressures on a next day spot market that lifted to as high as $4.55 [Thursday]."

In a Friday morning note to clients, Genscape reported increased supply and increased demand in eastern markets. "As temperatures in the Southeast Mid-Atlantic region begin to drop, demand is starting to increase again with a weekly average of 14.33 Bcf/d [but still] down 3.61 Bcf/d from last week's high of 17.94 Bcf/d. Appalachia production has increased +0.27 Bcf/d to 13.07 Bcf/d from last week's 12.80 Bcf/d due to better weather conditions."

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