Prices fell at all points but one Friday in anticipation of at least a modest break from the arctic cold that occupied most of the East last week. Prior-day futures weakness and the extra loss of industrial load associated with a holiday weekend were additional suppressants of cash numbers. Losses ranged from a little less than a nickel to about $6.20. A gain of less than a nickel at Malin was the exception to overall softness.

As it was all during the week, the Northeast proved to be the most volatile market by far Friday. Triple-digit losses prevailed at regional citygates, with Transco Zone 6’s non-New York pool racking up the biggest plunge. Quotes of $10 or more were still around, though, with an $11.50 peak being reported for Transco Zone 6-New York, while Iroquois Zone 2 and the Algonquin citygate topped out at $10.25 and $10.00, respectively.

After Friday morning lows anywhere from the minus 20s in Maine to 15 at Norfolk, VA, highs Saturday would range from below zero in northern Maine to around freezing in southern Virginia, The Weather Channel (TWC) said. Though Midwest lows in the teens at most locations Saturday still indicated significant heating load, they represented a warming trend from earlier in the week. However, a new Alberta Clipper would zip into the Great Lakes region Saturday, dropping one to five inches of snow, TWC said.

The eastern South was due to remain cold through the weekend, but with lows rising from the teens into the 20s or greater. Meanwhile, the region’s western half appeared to have largely escaped the predicted effects of an arctic cold front, with weekend highs expected to be in the 50s and 60s. Status quo in the West: moderately cold in the mountain areas and chilly to mild elsewhere.

Signs of the upcoming weather moderation were indicated in some pipelines canceling service restrictions during the weekend (see Transportation Notes).

El Paso said its system linepack had returned to normal Friday after being high Thursday.

Far from the commotion over harsh winter weather in the Northeast and Midwest, a utility buyer in the Southwest said his company could be considering shifting from coal-fired power generation to natural gas as a primary fuel source as early as this week. The trigger level would be gas prices around $3.50 in San Juan Basin, he said. As of Friday El Paso’s Bondad and Blanco pools in San Juan Basin averaged in the mid $3.50s and low $3.60s, respectively. His company has very little gas demand currently, though, the buyer said, due to mild regional temperatures.

Analysts at SunTrust Robinson Humphrey/the Gerdes Group confirmed the lagging pace of storage withdrawals in the 2008-09 winter. To date a total of 676 Bcf has been taken out, the analysts said in a Friday report, compared to 854 Bcf last year and the long-term average of 769 Bcf. “Next week should provide a telling data point on the storage front as weak underlying industrial/power generation demand is pitted against the coldest weather thus far in the 2008-09 heating season. Preliminarily, we anticipate a 150 Bcf withdrawal next week, largely in line with last year though below the 170 Bcf long-term average withdrawal.”

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