It is said that first impressions are lasting ones, and bulltraders hope that adage applies also to futures contracts,following the market’s dramatic price rally as February’s debutedas the spot month yesterday. February opened Wednesday at Tuesday’shigh and moved 10.5 cents higher for the day to finish at $1.886.At 44,020, estimated volume was light considering the double digitprice move.

Sources were quick to point to two storm systems, which willbring some of the coldest temperatures of the season to parts ofthe Midwest and Northeast, as reasons for the strength in both cashand futures markets. “The [futures] market was just looking for anexcuse to rally [Wednesday], and wintry weather and higher cashprices gave it a reason,” said a Dallas-based trader.

But not all weather forecasts are in agreement. While some callfor continued below-normal temperatures next week in the major gasconsuming regions of the Midwest and East, others look for amoderation in temperatures by Tuesday. “This rally is here today,gone tomorrow,” quipped a Houston marketer. “I look for prices tomove higher [Thursday], possibly testing the $1.97 level, but bynext week the trend will once again be down.”

In order for the market to sift lower, it will first have toovercome a larger-than-expected American Gas Association Storagereport. The report featured a net withdrawal of 167 Bcf, whichtriggered immediate buying when the exchange reopened for theafter-hours Access trading session. Because the withdrawal islarger than the 96 Bcf reported for the same week last year, theyear-on-year surplus declined for the first week since Oct. 16. Thesurplus now stands at 633 Bcf.

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