For the week ending Aug. 23 physical natural gas prices nationally rose on by 18 cents to average $3.49, according to NGI’s National Spot Gas Average. All regions were up by double digits, and only a few points gained less than a dime.

The Northeast posted the week’s largest gains of 26 cents to average $3.45 and South Texas and South Louisiana rose the least adding 16 cents to $3.44 and $3.45, respectively. The Northeast was also home to the largest and smallest increases of actively traded individual market points with the Algonquin Citygates rising 39 cents to $3.82 and deliveries on Tennessee Zone 4 Marcellus gaining 11 cents to $2.41.

Regionally East Texas rose 17 cents to $3.45 and the Rocky Mountains were 18 cents higher at $3.36.

The Midwest and Midcontinent both added 19 cents to $3.74 and $3.43, respectively, and California locations were 20 cents higher at $3.68.

The week’s return to more summer-like warmth also propelled September futures 11.7 cents higher to $3.485 for the five trading days. Traders on Thursday morning were forced to digest a smaller-than-expected 57 Bcf injection into natural gas storage for the week ending Aug. 16.

In Friday’s trading weekend and Monday deliveries of physical natural gas overall on average were 4 cents lower. Thursday’s screen strength was unable to resonate in the physical market largely as the result of moderating weekend weather forecasts.

Only a handful of points made it to the plus column, and the transportation- and infrastructure-challenged Marcellus region led the decline with losses of more than a half-dollar. Mid-Atlantic and Northeast locations posted double-digit losses as well. At the close of futures trading September had shed 6.0 cents to $3.485 and October was off by 5.4 cents to $3.521.

Futures traders don’t see any protracted move higher or lower. “I think we’ll just sit here between $3.45 and $3.55 for the next few days. We could rally up to $3.60, but that’s about it. There’s not much happening here,” said a New York floor trader.

Analysts see near-term weather limiting any significant price move lower. “With most forecasts still favoring above-normal temps across a broad swath of the country during the next couple of weeks, significant price pullbacks should prove limited,” said Jim Ritterbusch of Ritterbusch and Associates.

“But as the past two weekends have indicated, significant changes in the temperature views can develop within a two- to three-day time period, and these shifts are certainly capable of swinging back toward the cool side. But we are also keeping in mind that the huge price plunge from early May to early August is beginning to have some bite as far as gas to coal substitution is concerned as was on vivid display within yesterday’s supply build that varied considerably by around 12 Bcf compared to average Street expectations.”

Ritterbusch is suggesting a “sideline stance” and sees September struggling to hold prices levels above $3.54.

In the Northeast traders saw little reason to commit to weekend and Monday packages. “You are talking a weekend with no weather,” said a Northeast marketer. “Weekend-related demand is off, and Boston is right on average for the most part. Our power customers aren’t buying anything for the weekend.”

He added that transportation issues were ongoing in the oversupplied Marcellus region and the hefty discounts to move gas to market were understandable.

Meteorologists expected mild conditions over the Mid-Atlantic. “Slightly cooler, less humid air will settle over the Philadelphia area this weekend,” said Alex Sosnowski, meteorologist. “High pressure from Canada will slide southeastward across the tri-state. However, this high is not quite as cool as some of its predecessors in recent weeks.

“Both days of the weekend will feature a good deal of sunshine with high temperatures slightly below average for the end of August, but still enjoyable for most outdoor activities. Temperatures are forecast to sneak just past 80 degrees.”

Going forward, higher temperatures and storminess will define the weather mix. “Temperatures and humidity will increase [this] week. However, it appears that one or more rounds of thunderstorms will keep the heat at bay during most of the week. The pattern could yield locally gusty storms,” he said. predicted that Friday’s high in Philadelphia of 84 would ease to 82 by Sunday and rise to 85 on Monday. The normal high for late August in Philadelphia is 85. In Baltimore, Friday’s peak of 81 was anticipated to reach 82 on Sunday before rising further to 85 on Monday. The normal in Baltimore is also 85 this time of year. In Washington, DC, the Friday high of 79 was anticipated to reach 82 on Sunday before rising to 86 on Monday. The seasonal high in Washington is 86.

Gas for weekend and Monday delivery to the Algonquin Citygates fell 17 cents to $3.38, and deliveries into Iroquois Waddington were seen 5 cents lower at $3.98. On Tennessee Zone 6 200 L, gas was quoted at $3.43, down 9 cents.

On Dominion gas came in at $3.15, down 11 cents, and deliveries to Tetco M-3 fell 11 cents to $3.38. Gas headed for New York City on Transco Zone 6 retreated 8 cents to $3.47.

Weekend and Monday gas at beleaguered Marcellus points was off by a half-dollar or more. Gas on Tennessee Zone 4 Marcellus tumbled 48 cents to $1.94, and packages on Transco Leidy dropped 61 cents to $1.98.

Other market centers also saw soft weekend pricing. Gas at the Chicago Citygates was quoted 2 cents lower at $3.63, and deliveries to the Henry Hub came in at $3.50, down 2 cents. At NGPL’s Mid-Continent Pool weekend and Monday deliveries were seen at $3.43, down 3 cents, and at Opal gas changed hands at $3.39, down 4 cents.

As Friday’s trading began there were no major changes to the near-term weather outlook, but forecasters were having difficulty with the Eastern Seaboard. WSI Corp. in its Friday morning six- to 10-day outlook said, “There are no major changes from [Thursday’s] forecast, [and] forecast confidence is above average in the central U.S. but closer to normal on the East Coast.

“The I-95 corridor is a forecasting nightmare as several rounds of shower and thunderstorm activity are poised to roll down from eastern Canada. Any of these waves will have the potential to knock daytime temps off the strings, similar to what happened yesterday.”

In Thursday’s trading physical natural gas prices for Friday delivery overall on average shed a penny. Traders generally elected to get their deals done before the typically volatile futures trading associated with the release of morning storage data. Most locations flip flopped within a few pennies of unchanged, but northeast and eastern locations took hits from a weak next-day power market. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) storage report showed a build of 57 Bcf, well below expectations, and September futures posted the highs of the session shortly after the data’s release. At the close September had jumped 8.5 cents to $3.545 and October was higher by 8.4 cents to $3.575.

Prior to the issuance of the data most estimates were in the upper-60 Bcf area. Ritterbusch and Associates was looking for an increase of 70 Bcf, and a Reuters survey of 24 traders and analysts revealed an average 69 Bcf build. Bentek Energy’s flow model forecast a 60 Bcf addition. Last year, 43 Bcf was injected, and the five-year pace stands at 56 Bcf.

One school of thought has it that upcoming storage reports now look more positive. “The data has supportive implications for the balance going forward, with below average injections now possible for the next few weeks given the current temperatures outlook,” said Tim Evans of Citi Futures Perspective. “At the same time, we note that last week’s 57 Bcf build was still slightly over the 56 Bcf five-year average for the week and more than the date-adjusted 43 Bcf refill a year ago. And so while the data was bullish relative to expectations, the match with the five-year average says “neutral.”

Inventories now stand at 3,063 Bcf and are 238 Bcf less than last year at this time and 44 Bcf above the 5-year average. In the East Region 47 Bcf was injected and in the West Region 6 Bcf was added. Inventories in the Producing Region increased by 4 Bcf.