This week may have started Monday with rising prices like the previous one, but it didn’t take long for the two market paths to diverge. Quotes kept ascending through Thursday of last week, but on Tuesday of this week they were already in full retreat in most areas.

The Rockies, where much of the remaining cold weather in the U.S. continues to reside, ran contrary to the overall softening trend with quotes that were close to flat. Otherwise prices fell anywhere from 3 cents to a little more than 30 cents. Northeast citygates tended to take the biggest hits, while California and Southwest basin numbers, influenced by the relative supply tightness in the Rockies, saw single-digit declines.

Pacific Gas & Electric did not issue an OFO, but said on its bulletin board that linepack would be just above its minimum target levels through Wednesday. Kern River was reporting normal linepack in all segments. However, Westcoast further altered its imbalance tolerances (see Transportation Notes) because of excess supplies, and Northwest cautioned shippers against banking gas on its system because of a warming trend in the Pacific Northwest (Sumas and Stanfield saw drops of more than a nickel in contrast to the Rockies flatness).

“It looks like Monday was the coldest [day of the week], and we should have more moderate weather for the rest of the week,” said a source in the Northeast. He added that he would expect Tuesday’s price softness to continue, especially on Thursday when the trading will be for a long weekend. The source was not aware of any significant pipeline constraints, so he concluded that transportation is in good shape.

A Houston-based marketer, taking note of a sharp drop in temperatures at midday Tuesday as a stormy cool front moved into the city, said a system in the Texas Panhandle had spun off the front that enveloped much of the state outside South Texas. He suspected that significantly cooler temperatures behind the front might have spurred a modicum of heating demand, saying that some of his company’s West Texas customers were taking delivery of more gas than they had ordered for Tuesday flow.

Prices tended to fall moderately in the Midcontinent/Midwest as trading proceeded, the marketer continued. Chicago citygates started in the low $5.80s and fell to the mid $5.70s in later deals, he said. NGPL’s TexOk pool also moved lower but then rebounded a little, leading the marketer to think market-area buyers had started to use more of their transportation rights to source gas in the field.

Lehman Brothers analyst Thomas Driscoll expects a storage injection of 25 Bcf to be reported for the week ended April 2 due to last week’s weather being warmer than normal across most of the nation. A withdrawal of 8 Bcf occurred in the comparable period a year ago (the year-earlier pull was incorrectly reported at 6 Bcf in Tuesday’s issue).

Saying additional data had become available, Citigroup’s Kyle Cooper raised his final estimation of this week’s storage report to an injection of 4-14 Bcf Tuesday. He previously had estimated a 1-11 Bcf build (see Daily GPI, April 6).

Regardless of the calendar, there is still some wintry weather hanging around for a while in the East, according to New York City-based Weather 2000. “Reminiscent of last April’s late-season snows and winter-like chills, April 2004 is plaguing the Great Lakes, Ohio Valley, Mid-Atlantic and New England with cold temperatures (widespread hard freezes, snows and [February]-like wind chills), while clouds and scattered showers keep the South cool,” the consulting firm’s advisory Tuesday said. “As cool as last year seemed, the eastern third of the nation (i.e., approximately east of the Mississippi River) will definitely rival and likely exceed those HDD [heating degree day] tallies this year. Remember, April (outside the deep South), is still very much an HDD (winter) month as opposed to a CDD [cooling degree day] (summer) month. Impressively, mid-March to mid-April should come in much chillier than the same period last year for the eastern half of the nation.”

Weather 2000 said its original predictions remain confident for about two to three more weeks of “winter” weather, followed by a rather climatologically abrupt transition into milder weather.

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