Trading at the New York Mercantile Exchange for the month ofFebruary has featured tight but choppy ranges punctuated by smalldecreases when sellers slightly outnumbered the buyers in themarket. And yesterday’s expiration-day session was simply amicrocosm of that as the March contract was the focus of a fierce,and mostly balanced battle, which was ultimately decided by sellerslate in the day. The March contract concluded its reign as promptmonth with a 4.4-cent decline to settle at $1.666.

However for most of the trading session, the fate of the Marchcontract was far from sealed. By late morning there was a growingconstituency who felt short-covering would cause a bit of a “bounceinto the expiration.” But, after watching the March contract drop 7cents in the last hour of trading, a marketer was left to reason,”what can’t go up, must come down.” And although that is anoversimplified explanation for what happened yesterday, it did apretty good job of summarizing the move lower. “What we had was acase of some trade and local longs betting on a late rally inMarch, but when it became apparent that prices weren’t going higherthere was a rush for the exit,” another trader offered.

And just as those last minute trades were being processedbelow the pit at Nymex, the newly crowned prompt-month April wasreceiving its first piece of fundamental news. Coming too late toaffect the March contract, the American Gas Association releasedits weekly storage report which estimated 97 Bcf was withdrawn fromstorage last week. That figure compared favorably, at least from abulls perspective, to drawdowns last week of 59, and last year of77. The year-on-year surplus now sits at 442 Bcf. But despite theconstructive storage report, the April contract was 2.7-cents lowerto $1.67 in last night’s Access trading session.

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