Despite lows still due to be around freezing or a little lower on Christmas Eve, Northeast citygate numbers tanked — often by $2-plus — Wednesday. But most of the cash market was up or down less than a dime from flat as The Weather Channel (TWC) said a potential blizzard in much of the central U.S. will make holiday travel “very dangerous or impossible over portions of the region.”

Few points strayed further than a dime in either direction from unchanged as most of the market ranged from flat to about a dime higher or about a quarter lower. However, Northeast deliveries for Thursday recorded losses of about 80 cents to nearly $2.60.

After getting only modest support from Tuesday’s 4.6-cent rise by January futures, the cash market can count on a little more backing Thursday after the prompt-month contract added another 10.6 cents to its value (see related story). With their close at $5.821, January futures commanded a premium of a little more than a quarter above Henry Hub.

The Midwest and Midcontinent can expect most of the worst holiday weather as freezing temperatures and major snowfalls will dominate the western side of both regions, although conditions will remain somewhat moderate in their eastern ends through Thursday. Although a few sections of the South will start reaching freezing lows as early as Thursday, most of the region was expected to remain merely chilly to fairly moderate.

The Northeast has warmed up to some extent from its previously frigid conditions, but the Midwest’s “wintry mix” will spread into northern New York and New England from Friday night into Saturday, TWC said.

Although the West Coast and desert Southwest will escape freezing lows, Thursday’s temperatures in Western Canada and from the intermountain West to the Upper Plains will be up to 25 degrees below average, the forecasting agency said, with highs in the single digits, teens and 20s.

Cold weather-related pipeline constraints are close to nonexistent as three Spectra Energy pipes said they were ending imbalance restrictions Thursday (see Transportation Notes).

Although Thursday will mark the official start of bidweek, little if any trading of January baseload gas is anticipated as many traders are already on or will be on holiday-linked vacations, and nearly all of the rest will come into their offices only long enough to take care of spot business for the Christmas weekend before leaving again.

Bentek Energy projected a storage withdrawal of 181 Bcf for the week ending Dec. 18.

The National Weather Service (NWS) continued to have a relatively bullish heating load forecast for natural gas in the Dec. 28-Jan. 1 period. In its six- to 10-day forecast posted Tuesday afternoon, NWS expects above-normal temperatures only in the northern end of Maine. It looked for below-normal temperatures everywhere in the U.S. south and east of a line arcing southwestward from Connecticut through the middle Midwest to central New Mexico. NWS also predicted below-normal readings from southern Idaho through most of Wyoming into the northern sections of Utah and Colorado and in most of California from the San Francisco Bay area southeastward into the southwestern corner of Arizona.

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