In trading for April Fool’s Day flows, cash prices weren’t joking around. Except for some close-to-flat Rockies points, Wednesday’s quotes for the start of the April aftermarket continued to post substantial double-digit gains that were larger than Tuesday’s end-of-March upticks in many cases. Non-Rockies points rose anywhere from about 15 cents to 35 cents.

With weather-based load still in short supply in much of the market, a couple of sources could only surmise that previous-day futures strength across the energy complex and continued storage buying were chiefly responsible for cash extending its uphill run. That didn’t mean there wasn’t any heating demand in play; temperatures would remain to chilly to cool through at least Thursday in the Midwest and Northeast, while parts of the Southeast could expect a nip in the air. And a Canadian polar air mass will push into Montana and Wyoming, bringing snow with it, according to The Weather Channel. However, the sources contended there just wasn’t enough cold weather to make a significant difference in the market.

“I am as perplexed as anybody about why prices are so incredibly strong out there,” said a Midcontinent/Midwest trader. “The market seemed short, which was surprising considering we just got out of bidweek and I didn’t see all that many sellers during bidweek. I would have expected more to be selling that didn’t find a [baseload] home for their gas.”

“I would estimate swing prices Wednesday were about 20-25 cents above our bidweek levels,” said a Northeast utility buyer. “It didn’t feel really cold enough around here to justify major price firmness, but I understand it’s cool again” in the Midwest. The buyer reported having trouble finding Texas Eastern production-area gas out of the pipeline’s South Texas and East Texas zones for some reason, so he had to go with slightly more expensive East Louisiana supplies.

The utility buyer said attendance at the popular LDC Forum in Boston appeared to be taking some liquidity out of the swing market through the weekend. However, a Midcontinent trader said he was unable to detect any forum influence on the market.

For a change natural gas futures refused to “follow the oil,” rising 18.7 cents after a flat start even as all of Nymex’s petroleum-based products plunged. Crude oil for May was down nearly half a dollar to $35.76/bbl after a government report of an unexpectedly large increase in U.S. crude and gasoline inventories apparently negated OPEC’s signal that it will proceed with production cuts this month. Even an explosion and fire at a huge BP refinery in Texas City, TX failed to support oil prices when it was learned that the damage was confined to one gasoline production unit and the rest of the refinery was operating as usual Wednesday.

Early on in bidweek people were doing a lot of index deals for fear of the screen falling at expiry, and it was mostly at index premiums, a western utility buyer said. “Folks were also pretty uncertain about how much business to take swing and trading activity was light. After [the futures] expiration prices moved up a bit, and then the day after things really jumped. I think [the jump] probably had something to do with the cooler weather back east.”

“Bidweek was crazy as usual,” remarked a large marketer. “Everything dealing with energy is jumping up as we get closer to the summer. AC [air conditioning] loads will be up and up and gas prices are going to go with them.” Of course, perceptions can vary. An East Coast utility said it was a “pretty smooth bidweek for us.”

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