The moderately softening status quo remained in effect for the cash market Thursday. Declines of about a dime or less prevailed at most points, although double-digit moves were reported for the Rockies/Pacific Northwest region. The smallest drops of less than a nickel were concentrated at cool Northeast citygates.

Although the price downtrend has been mostly slow recently, a marketer commented, “I have no doubt we’ll be seeing dollar gas in some markets before the year ends.” If that happens, it almost certainly will happen first in the Rockies. Questar saw Thursday’s biggest decline of about 35 cents to the mid $1.20s, and most other Rockies points were averaging less than $1.50.

The screen reaction to AGA’s delayed report of 90 Bcf injected into storage last week was decidedly lackadaisical. October futures moved from mildly negative during the morning to mildly positive after the report. Since the volume fit within most people’s prior expectations, it obviously had been fully factored into Nymex traders’ thinking beforehand, a cash market source said.

A notable milestone was recorded when border-SoCalGas averaged less than $2 for the first time in more than two years. It was on April 5, 1999 (flow date) when the border last settled below $2 at an average of $1.87. Since then it has seen an astounding rise and fall that peaked in trading for Dec. 11, 2000 flows when the all-time spot price record of $69 was set and the border averaged $58.76. (Interestingly, low price levels are usually seen in Friday deals for a weekend, as was the case in early April 1999. However, the December 2000 peak also occurred in weekend trading.)

One western trader attributed the border weakness to SoCalGas being even farther along in storage refills than the national norm. He also noted that border-SoCal is below both the PG&E citygate and border-PG&E and only about a dime above Malin. That and slightly higher volume demand on the PG&E system this week suggests to him that a fair amount of agricultural processing is still going on in North and Central California, although much of that activity has been finished by now.

On the opposite coast, a marketer said Florida citygates lately have been trading “at FGT Zone 2 prices plus about a buck.” Florida Gas Transmission’s maximum FT transport rate is about 80 cents from Zone 2, he said, “but you have to pay an extra premium at the gate because the pipeline is running full,” a condition that along with heavy market-area demand has prompted many OFOs in recent weeks.

Quiet remained the watchword for Atlantic storm activity. A tropical depression had formed in the western Caribbean Sea but was weakening rapidly after moving ashore and dumping heavy rains on Nicaragua and El Salvador.

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