With modest increases in cooling load starting to return in sections of the South and West and widespread triple-digit highs continuing to plague the desert Southwest and Midcontinent, a solid majority of points were in rally mode Wednesday. Gains ranged from a couple of pennies at Henry Hub to about 20 cents.

The few cases of flat to softer numbers occurred in the Rockies/Pacific Northwest and California, topped by San Juan drops of 15 cents or more in El Paso’s two basin pools. Their relative softness occurred despite PG&E and SoCalGas ending OFOs Thursday. Excess supplies continued to depress the regional market somewhat as Kern River said it was taking steps to combat the persistent banking of gas on its system by “certain parties” (see Transportation Notes).

A rain-induced cooldown in eastern parts of the South was fading a bit as the precipitation was due to become more scattered Thursday, according to The Weather Channel (TWC). “Readings well up in the 80s and low 90s will grip the Southeast, while from western Tennessee and Alabama westward, maxima will soar well into the 90s, even topping 100 in spots, especially across Texas and Oklahoma,” TWC said. Meanwhile, an excess heat watch was posted for southwest Arizona, including the Phoenix area, and western peak temperatures in the 90s would stretch as far north as eastern Washington, it added.

A Northeast utility buyer said he was “buying some for the end of June” Wednesday and also scheduling gas for July. His company recently has been making most of its purchases in the market area. Because of heat in the South, Louisiana and Texas prices have moved up more relative to delivered prices in the Northeast, he explained. As a result, the utility has either idled some of its transportation capacity or released it to others, he said.

The buyer said he hasn’t seen or heard of any ill effects from the outages of half a dozen Empress, AB extraction plants that began last week, which is causing TransCanada to make downstream deliveries with higher than normal heating value. He noted that a second tropical storm had formed, but said it didn’t appear to be any threat to offshore production.

The 2005 Atlantic hurricane season got its second named storm, but Tropical Storm Bret was dissipating about as quickly as it had formed. In fact, Bret had already moved inland from the Bay of Campeche to dump heavy rains over the Mexican state of Veracruz and was downgraded to a tropical depression by Wednesday. The National Hurricane Center said Bret was expected to degenerate into a low-pressure area that night.

A marketer in the Upper Midwest reported that it has been hot and humid in her area recently, “but it’s getting more comfortable and the weekend is looking very nice.” She said she liked the July futures settlement price, which slid nearly half a dollar over the three-day expiration period, “but it could have been better.”

The marketer, a Southern utility buyer and an industrial end-user all reported no problem at all finding July suppliers. The end-user called it “a pretty uneventful bidweek,” with a lot of folks wanting to get done early. All of his July purchases were at index, and index premiums were more reasonable than those for June, he said. His Chicago citygate deals were done at the NGI index flat. He reported buying in Trunkline’s East Louisiana pool at index plus 2 cents for June, but said the premium was plus half a cent this time, adding, “That was more palatable.”

The Southern utility buyer said he will be active in the July aftermarket, having purchase “only a little” baseload for storage injection purchases. Daily high temperatures in his area have been consistently in the mid 90s this week, he said.

It’s a virtual certainty that July indexes will see large advances from June. July futures went off the board at $6.976, or 85.3 cents above the June settlement.

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