The somewhat surprising recent firmness of swing prices held uponce again in most cases Friday, refusing to yield to either thenormal drop in weekend demand or a continuing dearth of fundamentalweather support.

Only Northeast citygates saw much of an appreciable decline, andthat was on the mild side at a dime or less. Other points rangedfrom flat to a few cents higher. Sources cited storage plays andnew increases in the futures contracts for gas, crude oil andheating oil as being behind the relative strength of spot gasnumbers.

“When gas has no home at the burnertip, it will find a home instorage caverns,” where there now is plenty of room for it, onelarge aggregator said. “I think you can call winter officiallyover, and we may be in the unofficial start of injection seasonalready.” People are pondering the question “Should I buy forstorage now or wait until summer?” he went on, and for many thecheaper option appears to be buying now.

Another trader suggested it’s “too close to the end of the monthand people are coming up short, so they are willing to pay a higherprice just to cover the gap.”

Those dollar-plus premiums for New York City deliveries are longgone, noted a marketer whose high $2.80s average for Transco Zone6-NYC purchases was only 2-3 cents above those for Zone 6-non NYCand Texas Eastern M-3. He sees no chance of the Northeast marketrebounding this week due to forecasts calling for above normaltemperatures through at least March 7.

Most western prices were moving higher in late action because ofthe screen increase, said one source. However, the SouthernCalifornia border failed to do likewise because a lot more gas wasshowing up there than traders expected, he added. He thought thatwas due to the very favorable border-basin spread in which theborder average of around $2.60 was nearly a quarter above SanJuan-Blanco numbers. That covered quite adequately variabletransportation costs of about 13 cents.

Bidweek business was rather subdued for the day of the Nymexclose, several traders told Daily GPI. One who called Friday’sactivity “slow, illiquid and a complete non-event” said buyers andsellers were too far apart “and nobody moved much today.” Heexpects post-weekend March pricing to be at least a little lower.

“The screen going up has people thinking,” said a Gulf Coastproducer who saw index premiums getting stronger. Overall there waslittle change Friday in fixed prices for March, he said. ANortheast marketer said there were no price changes there. However,the screen rise was able to induce a small increase in westernbidweek quotes, another trader said.

One trader in the Michigan market said he was seeing essentiallyno spread between MichCon and Consumers Power for March. “In fact,I did a swap earlier at flat.”

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