Except for a sizeable number of flat to moderately higher locations in the West — where a cooling trend is taking overnight lows in the Rockies and Upper Plains back to either side of freezing — and elsewhere, Tuesday’s overall firmness didn’t last. Most of the cash market fell Wednesday due to a combination of a dearth of eastern weather-based load — in the form of either heat or substantive cold — and three successive previous days of futures weakness.

Losses ranged from 2-3 cents to about a quarter, and except for dime-plus drops at some of the Northeast citygates, were all in single digits. Flat quotes were fairly common in the West and several locations in the Midcontinent and Gulf Coast, while gains topped out around 15 cents.

Cash traders are still getting negative screen guidance as May futures dropped another 8.5 cents (see related story).

A slight retreat of previously rising temperatures in the Northeast will keep regional conditions pretty cold at the low end Thursday, with subfreezing lows remaining in some pockets of New England, but that obviously failed to keep the market there from taking the day’s biggest price hits. Mercury levels are slowly creeping higher in the Midwest. The ascent is a bit faster in the South but is not yet producing any appreciable jumps in cooling load except at the western end in Oklahoma and Texas. Weather Central predicts that Laredo, TX, on the Mexican border will reach the century mark in temperatures Thursday, about 20 degrees above the Phoenix high.

Much of the West and Canada remains home to the coldest weather in the continent at this time.

A low-inventory OFO by PG&E (see Transportation Notes) caused prices at the utility’s citygate to rise by less than a nickel, but IntercontinentalExchange (ICE) said PG&E citygate trading on its online platform reached a whopping 1,728,400 MMBtu, slightly more than 400,000 MMBtu greater than the Tuesday volume.

SoCalGas sent a belated morning announcement of a high-linepack OFO for Wednesday but kept it in effect for only two intraday nomination cycles.

A utility buyer in the upper levels of the South said only a few air conditioners are getting turned on during the day in his company’s service area, primarily because it’s “still pretty cool at night.” That should last into about the middle of next week, with the normal amount of heating degree days continuing through then.

The buyer said summer term deals that began April 1 are covering most of the utility’s gas needs, but there is still a bit of heating load that requires dipping into the daily market occasionally.

Bentek Energy’s U.S. Natural Gas Hub Flows chart found volume increases and declines for Wednesday approximately evenly divided at the 23 key trading points it covers, but the significantly greater size of the drops may have constituted an advance signal of the trading day’s majority softness. Only the PG&E citygate saw a 100,000 MMBtu-plus gain of 248,000 MMBtu, or 10%, Bentek said. But five locations recorded major volume downturns: Transco Zone 4, 396,000 MMBtu (15%); Columbia Gas in Appalachia, 390,000 MMBtu (9%); the Florida citygate, 159,000 MMBtu (5%); Northern Natural-demarc, 126,000 MMBtu (16%); and Texas Eastern M-3, 100,000 MMBtu (3%).

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