In what a producer called “trading much like yesterday’s,” cash prices continued to move higher Tuesday based on the screen’s day-earlier gain of nearly a nickel and enough lingering cold weather in the North and parts of the West to keep heating load from disappearing like the calendar winter season did three days ago.

The primary differences between the Monday and Tuesday markets was that no flat to softer points showed up Tuesday, and the Tuesday upticks generally were larger than the ones recorded Monday. Tuesday’s price increases ranged from a nickel to about 20 cents, with a slight majority being measured in double digits.

It’s officially spring now, but snow was still in the Wednesday forecasts for parts of the Northeast, Midwest and West. Predicted high temperatures in those regions will mostly be below late-March norms, but severe cold will be rare.

The South was a different story because spring definitely seems to have sprung there. Wednesday’s highs were expected to be no lower than the 50s at the western end of that region, and there is likely to be some cooling load surfacing when the thermometer approaches 80 degrees in South and West Texas and in southern Florida.

Traders may have squeezed out all the bullishness they could from this holiday-shortened week’s market. With weather fundamentals seeing relatively little change from day to day, one source considered Monday’s 4.5-cent rise in natural gas futures the primary driver to Tuesday’s further gains in cash gas. For much the same reason, he said, the screen’s 7-cent retreat Tuesday, coupled with major losses in Nymex’s petroleum-related offerings (crude oil for May delivery plummeted nearly a dollar and a half to $56.03/bbl in its prompt-month debut), should result in mild softness Wednesday for physical gas.

A producer who trades the Northeast said temperatures in the New York City metropolitan area got up to the relatively balmy mid 50s Tuesday, but would be a little cooler for the rest of the week. Gulf Coast-to-Northeast spreads widened by 5-10 cents Tuesday, he noted.

Some people have been “asking around” about April business, he continued, “but we’re still putting our numbers together” and probably won’t start doing bidweek deals until around Thursday. He added that he hasn’t heard any basis talk yet. The producer said he understands that Nymex has regular trading hours scheduled Thursday, but he still expects most cash traders to try to get done early that day anyway.

Apparently the National Weather Service expects spring to be busting out just about all over next week. Its forecast for the March 28-April 1 workweek calls for above normal temperatures almost throughout the United States except along the West Coast, in South Texas and the Southeast, and in Maine and New Hampshire. The only areas where the federal agency predicts below normal readings are along a coastal strip of Oregon and Northern California, and in Florida and extreme southeastern Louisiana along with the coastal sections of Alabama and Mississippi.

Analyst Thomas Driscoll of Lehman Brother predicted that the Energy Information Administration will report a storage withdrawal of 100 Bcf for the week ending March 18. “If we are correct, the storage overhang will decrease to 221 Bcf versus the five-year average,” Driscoll continued. “If we have the five-year average storage withdrawal rate for the remaining weeks of the heating season (adjusted for normal weather), we will end winter with just over 1.2 Tcf in storage.”

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