It wasn’t surprising to see a majority of points softening again Friday as weather continued to be milder than in most winters and the weekend was taking a bite out of industrial demand. What may have been a bit surprising to some was that quite a few locations were flat or managed to rack up small gains to keep mixed price movement in play.

The Energy Information Administration had underscored the market’s weakness a day earlier with a storage withdrawal report that further inflated surpluses over year-ago and five-year average levels, with several analysts anticipating more of the same through January. The report came too late to affect much more than late cash deals Thursday, but its impact was being fully felt Friday.

Outside the Northeast, it was a generally flat market with unchanged numbers common while both gains and losses ran as high as about a nickel. The Northeast again was more volatile than most areas in stretching its losses to as much as about 70 cents. Line 300 in Tennessee’s Zone 4 again ran against the regional price grain with an increase of nearly a dime.

February futures returned to exploring positive territory after a one-day slump, achieving a gain of 8.2 cents (see related story).

Algonquin continues to require shippers to stay in balance or run positive imbalances, while MRT was canceling a warm weather-induced System Protection Warning after only one day (see Transportation Notes). Otherwise, there was little in the way of substantive pipeline restrictions except for “the usual” small stuff, as a marketer called it. Westcoast reported that its linepack was returning to “healthy” levels after being undesirably high earlier in the week.

The Weather Channel said recent mild conditions in the Midwest would be moving eastward over the weekend and crowding out much of the Northeast’s cold weather. Only a few days after setting date-specific record lows in some cities, Florida would be basking in 70s highs Saturday and much of the rest of the South could expect to be only slightly cooler than that. The Rockies, Western Canada and areas along the Canadian border were about the only places where subfreezing lows were still expected.

IntercontinentalExchange reported that although Henry Hub averages on its online platform dropped another nickel or so, about the same as on Thursday, volumes jumped from 446,200 MMBtu to 540,900 MMBtu.

When they can still find available capacity, a lot of traders are still making storage injections even though it’s more than two months into the traditional withdrawal season, a Midcontinent producer said. He said that tells him there is still room left for price softness when winter has little occasion for storage use.

As a corollary, the producer suspects that a lot of people are using the “park” part of pipelines’ park and loan services as much as possible. It must be worth the carrying costs to them, he said, because almost no basis spreads are currently advantageous and very few utilities are buying spot gas. Many of them have problems with excess storage, he added.

Is it the “Winter of Our Discontent” in the gas market? A Gulf Coast marketer could not disagree since so many trading locations have fallen below $3 and seem destined to remain there until the problem of overproduction is arrested and normal weather-based demand returns. However, he did see a fairly good chance of small rebounds in most of Monday’s cash market based on forecasts of lower temperatures in some areas early in the week and Friday’s screen gain.

Two units were added to gas-oriented drilling activity during the week ending Jan. 6, making a total of 811, according to the Baker Hughes Rotary Rig Count. Both additions were onshore, with the Gulf of Mexico count unchanged. The latest Baker Hughes tally is 1% lower than a month ago and down 11% from year-earlier levels.

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