Mixed price movement Wednesday leaned mostly to the downside as overall heating load was forecast to remain relatively light for late February. However, there were more small gains here and there than on Tuesday, signaling that the March futures increase of 13.9 cents that day may have had some supportive impact on Wednesday’s cash market.

As on the previous day, except for Northeast citygates few quotes moved more than a few cents up or down from unchanged. A minority of points, mostly in the Gulf Coast and West, were flat to up a little more than a dime. Losses ranged from a couple of pennies to about 45 cents.

March futures went off the board with a loss of 18 cents, providing substantially negative guidance for cash traders Thursday (see related story).

Sub-freezing lows are due to continue Thursday in the Midwest, Rockies and Canada, but almost no other area could expect very cold temperatures. Northeast citygates recorded all of the biggest declines as temperatures will be above seasonal norms. New York City, for example, is forecast to experience a relatively balmy high just above 50.

The eastern half of the South will continue to warm to early spring-like conditions Thursday, and the western half may see quite a few air conditioners getting turned on as highs of 81 and 77 are due in Houston and New Orleans, respectively, according to Madison, WI-based Weather Central.

A Houston-based marketer said he was expecting futures to be weaker on expiration day, mainly because he had been surprised to see the March contract rising Monday and Tuesday. There didn’t seem to be any good reason for the earlier firmness, he added.

Noting the high of 81 forecast for Thursday in Houston, the marketer said he was almost certain to be among area residents cranking up their air conditioners. That likely contributed some extra power generation load for gas, at least in southeast Texas, he said. That supposition was borne out to some extent by the Houston Ship Channel, Tennessee in South Texas and Texas Eastern’s South and East Texas zones seeing all of Wednesday’s price upticks of about a dime or more.

Just about all March bidweek business was getting wrapped Wednesday, the marketer said. Certainly there will be a little baseload trading left to be done Thursday, but most people will be concentrating on their next-month nominations, he added. The Chicago citygate was trading mostly in the mid $4.00s, which was equivalent to flat basis in relation to the futures settlement of $4.056, he said. Prior to that he reported seeing Chicago basis start around minus 6 cents Monday and weaken to minus 10-9 cents Tuesday due to the futures gains on those days.

A marketer in the Upper Midwest said there was potential for new snow in her area Thursday, and it would be getting even colder again this weekend. However, it was looking like a pretty warm March to her company’s forecasting services, she said.

The marketer said she was glad to see expiring March futures more than wipe out the gains of Monday and Tuesday because it meant cheaper gas for the company’s clients. She reported basis of plus 20 cents for Consumers Energy and plus 19 cents for MichCon.

The Northern Natural Gas bulletin board confirmed the marketer’s expectation of a considerably colder weekend in the Midwest. The pipeline’s system-weighted average temperature of about 31 degrees Wednesday was projected to drop to 19 Thursday, 16 Friday and 15 Saturday. No wonder: Minneapolis and Omaha, NE, two of Northern’s largest market areas, were expected to see lows Thursday of about five and 15, respectively.

The National Weather Service (NWS) altered its six- to 10-day forecast for the March 2-6 workweek (see Daily GPI, Feb. 25) late Tuesday. Now the agency calls for above-normal temperatures in a large rectangular area of the central U.S. anchored by corners in southeastern Alabama, central Indiana, northwestern Colorado and eastern Arizona. NWS predicted below-normal readings in a thin strip along the South Atlantic coast from North Carolina to near the southern end of the Florida peninsula. It also expects below-normal temperatures in the Pacific Northwest as far eastward as central Montana and in nearly all of Nevada and the northern three-fourths of California.

SunTrust Robinson Humphrey analyst Cameron Horwitz expects a 102 Bcf storage withdrawal to be reported for the week ending Feb. 20. Tim Evans of Citi Futures Perspective said he’s looking for a much larger pull of 130 Bcf for that week, and also projects draws of 110 Bcf and 70 Bcf for the weeks ending Feb. 27 and March 6, respectively.

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