Can the cash market run the table this week? It extended its chances quite a bit Thursday by recording increases at virtually all points again. Cooling load was due to get a little boost in parts of the Midwest and was returning to some extent in interior California, although forecasts were mostly moderate in the rest of the Midwest and the Northeast. The previous day’s 4.1-cent gain by futures was an additional modest bullish influence.

Flat quotes at Dracut in the Northeast were the exception to overall gains ranging from 2-3 cents to about 20 cents. A majority of the increases were in double digits.

The Energy Information Administration was within the range of previous expectations but once again fell slightly short of consensus estimates in the low 60s Bcf when it reported a 66 Bcf build from storage for the week ending July 31. Unlike a week earlier — when the report was similarly below expectations but September futures rose nearly 20 cents anyway — this time Nymex traders took a much dimmer view of the most recent draw and sent the contract 29.9 cents lower (see related story).

The big futures drop brought the prompt-month contract to a deficit of nearly a nickel to Henry Hub Thursday, whereas the Nymex product had commanded a premium of nearly 40 cents only a day earlier.

There’s few pipeline constraints of major consequence at this point. Florida Gas Transmission extended an Overage Alert Day again. The Florida citygate was up only about 15 cents as a result, but Florida Gas Zone 1 in South Texas saw the day’s biggest increase.

Texas gains were actually strong all around as highs in the Lone Star State were predicted to continue reaching the mid 90s to 100 area. A heat advisory was issued in Houston for the second straight day Thursday.

The Northeast has retreated from the unusually warm temperatures that had dominated its forecast over the last two weeks but was starting to level out, with New York City’s high in the low 80s Thursday expected to change little.

The Midwest will see a contrast in temperature movements. Locations in the western reaches such as Omaha, NE, and Des Moines, IA, will be warming by five degrees or so Friday, while to the east Chicago can expect a drop from the low 80s to the mid 70s, according to Madison, WI-based Weather Central.

The South has begun living up to its summertime reputation with highs in the 90s, which is driving a fair amount of power generation load but no more than normal for the region in August.

The western forecast was largely static: scorching (but slightly less than before) heat in the desert Southwest accompanied by above-normal readings in the Rockies, while moderation rules in the rest of the region. A warm-up is due in inland California, but it will only take highs back up into the mid 80s.

“We’re finally getting some heat again” in the Midwest, said a marketer, and it looks like it may be the region’s first really substantial sustained heat of this summer. He wasn’t surprised by the futures slide, saying he thought the previous run-up had been “artificial” and Thursday’s downturn despite a below-expectations storage injection was essentially a correction.

The marketer said he expected further cooling load gains in the Midwest to result in a “little bit” of cash firmness Friday, although modest softness was almost about as probable. One reason he was slightly on the bullish side, he said, was that he didn’t expect any storage pulls to be used to meet the upcoming temperature surge. Maintenance on NGPL and Panhandle Eastern constituted the only pipe constraints of consequence in the Midcontinent at this point that he could recall, and they weren’t major, he said.

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