Thursday’s bullish storage report and the screen spike that it inspired obviously had more influence on cash market thinking than some sources had suspected. The prior-day futures strength trumped weakening weather fundamentals and the usual weekend drop in industrial load to send prices higher at nearly all points Friday.

Most quotes recorded advances ranging from about a nickel to a quarter, also a few scattered points were flat to barely higher. Midcontinent/Midwest, Rockies and California numbers tended to show the greatest strength.

It was the second day in a row for the market to throw traders a bit of a curve ball. On Wednesday some thought hot weather would continue to carry prices a little higher Thursday, but the market softened instead. Then on Thursday sources thought the forecasts of moderating weekend weather would outweigh the delayed impact of that day’s screen advance and depress prices Friday. Wrong again.

Northeast residents expected to be concerned with potential flooding during the weekend because heavy rainstorms were due to quash normal late-July heat. The Midwest was likely to be even further removed from the usual summer scene as a cold front threatened to set date-specific low temperature records Saturday morning in several areas. Somewhat normal heat levels were predicted for the South, but widespread thunderstorms were also in the weekend forecast. And while chilly winds would keep much of the West from the Rockies through New Mexico below normal, the Pacific Northwest was due for one more day of unusual heat Saturday before getting its own cooldown from ocean breezed, The Weather Channel said.

It was kind of surprising that prices went up, a marketer said, but many traders likely were seeing opportunities to pick up storage gas cheaply relative to August pricing. (Henry Hub’s high $5.90s average Friday was about 15 cents below where August futures settled.) Also, revised forecasts for hotter weather returning to northern market areas in the middle of the coming week may have had some anticipating price hikes and laying in supplies in advance, he said. It’s usually a good indicator that when prices rise in late deals one day, as they did Thursday, they’ll keep moving higher the next day, the marketer added.

For a Gulf Coast producer, it was “not that much of a surprise” to see higher weekend prices. After all, Thursday’s screen rise following the storage report had laid a pretty solid foundation for the cash market Friday, he said.

Although the Atlantic tropical scene had settled down again after a tropical wave aroused a bit of midweek interest, a new “fairly strong tropical wave” south of the Cape Verde Islands off West Africa was worth monitoring because of its potential for development, according to The Weather Channel. It noted that no named storms have appeared in the Atlantic yet this year, and that over the past 50 years, roughly a third of the Atlantic hurricane seasons had their first named storms occurring later than July 22. The first tropical storm to show up in 2004 will be named Alex.

Enjoy the current refreshing reprieve from oppressive heat in the East while you can, cautions Weather 2000, because the dog days of summer are just around the corner. “Triple-digit heat widespread up and down California and reaching up into the Northern Plains; mid-Mississippi Valley struggling to drop into the 70s by dawn; NYC metroplex breaking 90° F with humidity, and already reaching 80° F by the morning rush-hour,” the consulting firm said in an advisory Thursday. “Such has been the story for the third week of July 2004, but some relief via Canada is on the way.

“We are entering the climatologically hottest three weeks of the calendar year for most of the nation, so it doesn’t take much in the way of a cool front, Canadian air mass or cloudiness and showers to bring about negative anomalies this time of year. And such will be the case later in the weekend and early [this] week (but the West will still sizzle). And right when pleasantly warm lower 80s in the North and less oppressive upper 80s in the South [have] formed a fan base, the stickier patterns we’ve all become accustomed to [in] the summer will rebuild and re-emerge.”

Anticipated mild weather in the East probably will promote a somewhat bearish mood during bidweek, one source theorized. Consequently, it may be wise strategy to acquire as much baseload supply as feasible, he went on. Although this month’s weather was hotter than June’s, swing prices still traded below first-of-month indexes throughout July. That is unlikely to be repeated in August, he said, both because air conditioning load almost certainly will be much greater and the 2004 Atlantic hurricane season will be entering a more active phase.

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