Prices continued to rise Wednesday at nearly all points as heating load, though getting a bit lighter, remained fairly robust and was joined by prior-day futures support after the November contract rose 6.5 cents Tuesday.

Losses of a little more than a nickel to about 16 cents at four points — all in the East — were the exceptions to the overall market trend. Otherwise prices ranged from flat to a little more than 35 cents higher.

Thursday’s cash market will continue to have screen support as November futures expired strongly Wednesday with an increase of 28.3 cents. Some thought strength throughout Nymex’s energy complex was tied to Tuesday’s big stock market surge that continued through most of Wednesday before falling back at the end (see related story).

The Midwest began a warming trend Wednesday that was due to continue Thursday, but with most highs still forecast to be in the 50s, there was still a good amount of heating demand to go around. Not coincidentally, Chicago was one of the few areas expected to move up into the 60s, and its citygate (along with Alliance deliveries) saw the only losses among Midwest citygates.

The Northeast was forecast to follow suit with a warming trend of its own — to some extent. New York City is expected to follow Wednesday’s high around 47 with one of 52 Thursday. However, Boston is predicted to slip one degree from Wednesday’s 50. The New England cold helped sustain regional citygate gains.

The western end of the South is due to warm up into the 70s Thursday, but a chill will linger in the eastern end with highs limited to the 60s. Florida Gas Transmission said Wednesday morning that its northern Florida market area was experiencing 30-degree weather and such conditions were forecast again for Thursday morning, so market-area customers should be aware of the potential for issuance of an Overage Alert Day. In response, the Florida citygate recorded one of the day’s biggest increases of about 35 cents.

For the West, the status quo largely remains in effect: hot highs on either side of 90 in the desert Southwest; mild in the Rockies and inland California with peak temperatures in the mid to high 70s; and chilly in the Pacific Northwest.

On Tuesday a producer had correctly predicted higher prices again Wednesday, but he expected softness to set in Thursday. He couldn’t have foreseen the expiration-day futures strength, though, and a Texas-based marketer said Wednesday he thought that would be enough to extend the midweek firmness through Thursday. However, he said moderating weather trends probably will keep any gains small and possibly allow some losses.

The marketer said $6.20 is his estimate for the Chicago index in November. He based it on Chicago basis trading at minus 27 cents Wednesday, which he said was down from earlier in the week because of rising futures. Chicago deliveries via the NIPSCO system were trading at index plus 5-12 cents, he said, noting that NIPSCO is normally the highest-priced of the three citygate utilities.

It’s obvious that indexes for November will continue big descents (October’s Chicago index was $7.03), the marketer continued. He said his company was finishing its bidweek deals Wednesday afternoon.

The National Weather Service’s forecast for the Nov. 3-7 workweek calls for above-normal temperatures everywhere east of a line southward through eastern Montana and Wyoming before curving to the southeast through western Oklahoma and East Texas. The agency predicts below-normal readings everywhere west of a line running southward from extreme western Montana to central Arizona.

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