Despite two preceding days of futures softness and some tardiness in the current blast of cold weather reaching the Northeast and parts of the South, the cash market found enough heating load in the late-week forecasts to raise prices at virtually all points Wednesday.

The Rockies, where lows are starting to fall to 10 degrees or less, and Midwest, experiencing sub-freezing lows, led gains ranging from about C5 cents to a little more than 55 cents. Flat quotes at Empress made it the only point left out of the overall advance. Florida Gas Zone 2 joined the other two Western Canada pricing locations (NOVA Inventory Transfer and Westcoast Station 2) in failing to achieve double-digit upticks.

One source considered it a toss-up on whether cash prices could continue their advance Thursday after January futures extended their losing streak to three days by falling 23.2 cents (see related story).

Despite widespread frigid weather predicted for Thursday, no pipelines had issued cold-related OFOs or similar restrictions as of Wednesday afternoon.

Despite experiencing unusually moderate conditions for early December, the Northeast saw some fairly hefty citygate gains. Highs on Thursday will be above average across much of the region, The Weather Channel said, but cooler temperatures will be arriving there Friday.

Weather is much more seasonable from the Midwest through the Plains, Midcontinent, Rockies and Pacific Northwest, and their prices reflected the abundance of heating load. However, although temperatures were due to bottom out on either side of 10 degrees in Alberta, Western Canada was Wednesday’s weakest market.

Although getting a bit chillier, no part of the South was expected to get below the mid 30s Thursday. Florida was the warmest part of the nation with highs still reaching the 70s and 80s. Even Phoenix, known for its 100-plus temperatures during the summer, wasn’t expected to get above 70.

A utility buyer in the Lower Midwest said her company had been enjoying a nice spell of weather until earlier this week and then “yikes,” it had gotten really cold. She said gas throughput wasn’t exactly what she would call “heavy” even with low temperatures in the teens, but the utility was moving a lot more gas than it did during November, when area heating degree days were substantially less than normal.

The frigid weather should last at least through the end of next week, the buyer continued. Noting that Northern Natural’s demarc and Ventura points were both averaging more than $5 Wednesday, she said it had been quite a while since the utility had paid prices that high into the pipeline.

A marketer in the Upper Midwest said her area was likely to see snow showers through the next two days. She didn’t buy any gas at the Consumers Energy citygate Wednesday “because price kept going up, up and up, and we figured we could hold out” in hopes of lower prices later. Although virtually all agricultural harvests have long since ended, the company is still getting some spot gas orders from a customer who hasn’t quite finished its grain drying operations yet, she said.

The only areas where the National Weather Service (NWS) expects above-normal temperatures during the Dec. 7-11 workweek are in the southern end of Florida and in the southern sections of Arizona and California. Excluding the northern half of the Northeast, in its six- to 10-day forecast posted Tuesday afternoon NWS said it looked for below-normal readings from the Pacific Northwest through the lower Northeast and bulging into the south-central U.S. as far south as Central Texas.

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