Many points were close to flat Monday in a mixed market that leaned mostly to the downside. The return of industrial load from a weekend slump and what is suspected to be thriving demand for early storage refills were pitted against mild weather fundamentals and the previous Friday’s 22.9-cent screen dive as primary cash trading influences.

Losses ranged up to about a quarter, while gains were capped at a little less than a dime. In general, nearly all western and Midcontinent points were lower along with Midwest and Northeast citygates. Most of the modest firmness occurred in the Gulf Coast, although East Texas numbers showed some weakness.

Moderately colder weather for the first part of the weekend in the Northeast and Midwest was unable to keep prices from falling at all points Friday, so it was hardly surprising that the considerably milder conditions opening this week had virtually no success in rallying market-area quotes Monday. A cold front is due from the Upper Midwest into the central Plains Tuesday, but it’s not expected to take regional high temperatures any lower than the upper 50s in North Dakota behind the front, The Weather Channel (TWC) said.

Similarly moderate conditions are forecast for the Northeast, and other than possible 90s in the southern tip of Texas, the South should see thermometer readings in the 70s and 80s. The western end of the South is where the 80s are most likely; a lack of substantive air conditioning load in the region’s eastern sections is indicated by forecast highs Tuesday of 73 in Atlanta and 70 in Charlotte, NC.

Snow showers are still possible Tuesday in parts of the Rockies and Pacific Northwest, and highs in the 30s are predicted for the West’s higher mountain ranges. But those demand-boosting factors will occur mostly in little-populated areas; the great majority of residents will enjoy temperatures ranging from the 50s and 60s in lower elevations of the Northwest to the 80s in the desert Southwest, TWC said.

May natural gas futures recovered some of the price ground they lost Friday by rising 13.9 cents Monday, largely in sympathy with surging petroleum-based futures as global supply tensions continued to roil the market, including the addition of reported plans by the Bush administration to explore the possibility of military strikes against Iran (see futures story).

As expected, a Northern Natural Gas spokesman confirmed Monday that flows had been restored for 10 platforms on the Matagorda Offshore Pipeline System (MOPS) that were shut in after a leak was detected upstream of the Matagorda 686 platform at the beginning of March (see Daily GPI, April 10). Northern is the operator of MOPS. Three other Mustang Island area platforms must remain shut in until repairs are completed.

More additions to Gulf Coast supplies will happen or are anticipated Tuesday as Transco and Southern restore service on facilities that were shut down by hurricane damage last year (see Transportation Notes).

There was a tiny uptick in Zone 1 (Texas), but Florida Gas Transmission Zones 2 and 3 were among the few declining Louisiana points after the pipeline lifted an Overage Alert Day Sunday. The FGT citygate also fell.

A Gulf Coast producer acknowledged that surely some people were running their air conditioners in the South, but he was unable to detect much cooling load yet. “I’m seeing more than before” in recent days, he said, but it hasn’t been a big increase. He thought one factor maintaining a support level for cash prices in the face of bearish fundamentals is that traders who didn’t baseload much gas for April can buy below index in the daily market. LDCs seem to be taking advantage of that, especially on Transco, he noted. There isn’t much heating load left for Tuesday in the northern market areas, he said.

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