Generally minor softness has lasted only one day this week so far, as a large majority of locations resumed climbs Thursday that once again were mostly in single digits. Patches of snow and rain stretched from the Rockies to the Northeast and snow was even expected to reach the panhandles of Oklahoma and Texas by Friday. Subfreezing lows will become more frequent at least through Friday before many areas begin to warm again.

Wednesday’s January futures gain of 2.7 cents gave a little extra boost to numbers that were flat to about 40 cents higher. The only upticks reaching double digits were in the Northeast, as usual, and in the California and Southwest delivered markets. Snow forecasts along with Friday lows in the 20s and high teens spurred New England citygates to lead the overall ascent.

Only a few scattered points fell 2-4 cents or so.

Analysts were off again in their consensus estimates for the storage withdrawal during the week ending Dec. 16. But for a change it was on the high side as the Energy Information Administration’s report of a 100 Bcf pull fell about 5 Bcf short of expectations in the mid 100s Bcf. With surpluses to year-ago and five-year average levels continuing to grow, it was no surprise when January futures were a bit lower following the report. However, Nymex traders must have reconsidered the outlook as they eventually pushed the prompt-month to a scant advance of 1.4 cent on the day (see related story).

Iroquois provided a reminder that more moderate conditions will be returning to the Northeast over the long weekend by issuing an Imbalance Warning through Tuesday that encourages shippers to run positive imbalances (see Transportation Notes).

With Ruby Pipeline now back to full operations, its deliveries at Malin averaged $3.32 Thursday, about half a cent below those via Gas Transmission-Northwest (GTN), according to IntercontinentalExchange (ICE). However, GTN volumes of 282,500 MMBtu on ICE were about double Ruby’s 142,700 MMBtu.

A PG&E low-inventory OFO (see Transportation Notes) played a part in helping the PG&E citygate rise nearly a dime. However, although SoCalGas did not issue an OFO, the SoCal citygate realized a larger gain of about 15 cents.

A western utility buyer said his company had some “decent” but not spectacular gas throughput so far in December. Things are quiet now with many employees taking holiday-related vacations, he said, even though Thursday and Friday pretty much will be the coldest days of the month before warmer weather sets in again during the weekend.

Remember the big freeze of February 2011 that devastated gas and electric services in most of the area from Texas westward, he said. Certainly nobody wants that to happen again, he added, but a little dose of less-severe conditions could help work off some of the supply glut that is depressing prices.

The buyer said his staff had already finished its Christmas shopping for January baseload, making purchases at index Wednesday. When combined with winter term contracts, that should be enough to meet the utility’s needs, he said, but it can always call on the spot market if necessary, adding that it’s hard to go wrong that way with gas as cheap as it is currently.

A Gulf Coast marketer said since nearly all traders will be taking off Monday for the Christmas holiday and a good many will be leaving early on the preceding Friday, the bulk of January bidweek business is likely to take place on Tuesday and Wednesday, Dec. 27 and 28.

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