Even with springtime weather becoming more in evidence in nearly all areas as the Easter weekend approaches, prices saw fairly substantive gains at nearly all points Wednesday. The screen breaking a recent losing streak with a 5.7-cent rally Tuesday obviously played a role, but sources suggested several other minor factors that may have combined into an up day for cash.

Flat to a dime lower numbers at four points were the exceptions to increases ranging from 2-3 cents to about a quarter. Most upticks were in double digits.

Although May futures began the day in positive territory, they later retreated to close down 10.4 cents to $3.869 (see related story). Henry Hub was about a nickel higher in averaging around $3.93.

Sub-freezing lows and occasional snowfalls were in the Thursday forecast for parts of the Rockies and Western Canada, but that constituted about the last remaining repository of significant heating load.

Although the Pacific Northwest and New England will remain on the chilly side for a while longer, predictions of peak temperatures in the low to mid 70s for much of the Midwest and lower Northeast meant heating load had vanished in those areas for all practical purposes. A Chicago-area source said his furnace was “turned off for the season.”

There was a potential for a modest amount of air conditioning load developing in the South as highs in the vicinity of 80 or higher were forecast from Oklahoma and Texas to the South Atlantic coast.

SoCalGas finally is allowing a lengthy high-linepack OFO to expire Thursday, and the Southern California border was up about 15 cents as a result. However, the SoCal citygate, which had risen 7 cents Tuesday while the OFO was still in effect, dropped by about the same amount Wednesday.

Meanwhile, MRT and Tennessee were declaring warm weather-related restrictions for Thursday (see Transportation Notes).

Because of the Good Friday holiday, Thursday’s trading will be for flows from Friday through Monday.

An industrial end-user suggested that Wednesday morning’s initial futures strength may have helped boost cash in later deals. A modest lack of liquidity also might have been involved, as reportedly several traders are already out of the office for Easter vacations.

The end-user said the April Gulf Coast market was fairly benign with plenty of supply available, allowing him to wrap up purchases there on the first day of bidweek. However, he reported being offered Chicago citygate gas at the NGI index plus 6 cents, which “seemed pretty strong to me.” Rather than pay the index premium, he decided to rely on the daily market instead, a decision was made easier because his company doesn’t use very much gas in the Chicago area.

A Rockies producer had other ideas about Wednesday’s spot market strength defying bearish weather fundamentals. He reported seeing what he regarded as a reliable report that about 19,000 MW of nuclear generation is offline currently for regular maintenance. The report estimated that every 1,000 MW of nuke downtime is equal to about 0.2 Bcf/d of extra gas demand, he said.

Also, sub-$4 prices could be luring bargain hunters, the producer said; after all, who can blame a gas buyer for buying storage supplies now with most gas costing less than $4 into the pipe? Anyone who puts it off runs the risk or an extra-hot summer/and or very active hurricane season, he said.

The fertilizer manufacturing business is good now that gas prices are low again, an end-user commented, and it’s relatively easy to meet feedstock budgets again.

The National Weather Service expects above-normal temperatures during the April 5-9 workweek almost everywhere (except along the lower edges of the Gulf Coast states) east of a line extending southward through the eastern Dakotas to central Texas. In its six- to 10-day forecast posted Tuesday afternoon, the agency looks for below-normal readings in the southern half of the Florida peninsula and throughout the West Coast states, Nevada, Utah and Idaho, extending into northwest Arizona and the northwest corner of Colorado to the south and into western Montana and western Wyoming to the north.

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