With springtime weather abounding in most areas and forecasts of sub-freezing lows rare outside Canada and sections of the Upper Plains near the Canadian border, prices continued to drop in most of the market Monday. Last Friday’s decline of 10.9 cents by April futures further depressed cash prices, and the return of industrial demand from its usual weekend hiatus had virtually no supportive effect.

Only flat to about a nickel higher numbers at three Pacific Northwest points and two in Northern California avoided the overall softness. Otherwise quotes fell between about 2 cents and 35 cents or so.

April futures ended their prompt-month reign on a slightly softer note, falling 3 cents to settle at $3.842 (see related story).

The weekend cancellation of a high-inventory OFO by PG&E allowed the PG&E citygate and Malin to be flat to a few cents higher. Even though SoCalGas extended a high-linepack OFO into Tuesday (see Transportation Notes), the SoCal citygate and Southern California border dropped only about 2 cents and a nickel, respectively.

Tuesday temperatures were due to be mild to chilly, but mostly seasonal, across most of the U.S. The Kern River bulletin board indicated that readings in its western service area will be turning chillier toward midweek, including sub-freezing lows returning to the Salt Lake City, UT, area Wednesday.

However, the Northern Natural Gas bulletin said an emphatic warming trend is coming to the Upper Midwest. Its normal system-weighted temperature at this time of year is 39 degrees, Northern said, but it projected averages of 49 Monday, 58 Tuesday and 62 Wednesday.

A Midwest marketer confirmed that weather had become more spring-like in his area. Local furnaces have been turned off for a few days, he said, and residents could look forward to lower 80s temperatures later this week. Area farmers will be glad to be able to plant their crops in such conditions, he said. Considering the overall weather outlook, he said he was unable to detect any prospects for a cash market rally at least into early April.

The marketer said he was not seeing much price strength for April, and bidweek basis spreads were staying the same Monday as they had been late last week. With Nicor capacity restrictions still in effect, he reported non-Nicor Chicago citygates in the $3.93 area, but he said Nicor deliveries were commanding up to $4.08.

The rise in drilling rigs seeking natural gas in the U.S. slowed to two (total of 941) during the week ending March 26, according to the Baker Hughes Rotary Rig Count. Both additions came in the Gulf of Mexico, while the onshore tally was unchanged. Baker Hughes said its latest count was up 4% from a month ago and 16% higher than the year-earlier level.

SunTrust Robinson Humphrey/the Gerdes Group analysts noted that this marked the 13th consecutive weekly increase in gas-directed drilling and that year-to-date the gas rig count is up by 190. The horizontal-oriented rig count “rose 14 last week to an all-time high of 752 rigs, which constitutes over 50% of total U.S. drilling activity,” the analysts said. In shale-specific counts, Marcellus gained seven rigs, Barnett/Haynesville/Woodford added one each, Eagle Ford was unchanged and Fayetteville lost one, they added.

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