Price gains were virtually across the board Wednesday and were larger than the prior day’s mostly minuscule upticks. Cooling load is recovering in many areas from its slump during the first two-thirds of August, and Tuesday’s 10.4-cent increase by September futures was an additional bullish factor.

Only small drops of a nickel or less at Dracut and Iroquois Zone 1 in the Northeast were excluded from overall gains ranging a little less than a nickel to nearly C20 cents (Westcoast Station 2). Advances on either side of a dime were spread liberally throughout the market.

The cash market had ample futures support Wednesday, but will have to deal with negative guidance Thursday after the prompt-month Nymex contract reversed course again and dropped 7.1 cents (see related story).

Hurricane Irene strengthened to Category Three status with winds around 120 mph, and a projected shift to a more northerly tracking had it menacing the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions more than the Carolinas as previously expected. The National Hurricane Center also was monitoring low-pressure systems approaching the central Atlantic and southwest of the Cape Verde Islands off West Africa, to which it accorded development odds of 10% and 60%, respectively.

The Texas/Oklahoma/Louisiana area through much of the desert Southwest remains home to most of the market’s 100-degree-plus highs, but much of the South will be peaking in the low to mid 90s heading into the weekend. However, while the Northeast will be warming a bit into the mid 80s Thursday, some sections of the Midwest will see peaks dropping to around 80. Much of the West outside the sizzling desert Southwest will be a bit warmer, but mild to cool conditions will continue to prevail in the Pacific Northwest and Canada.

Florida Gas Transmission extended an Overage Alert Day through at least Wednesday, and Florida Gas Zone 3 quotes rose about a dime, one of Wednesday’s largest gains.

Severe heat continues to punish the Lone Star state, with the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) appealing for electricity use conservation from 3-7 p.m. each day through the weekend due to high demand across the state. Peak demand was forecast to be more than 67,000 MW Wednesday, slightly behind the current all-time record of 68,294 MW on Aug. 3, ERCOT said. Houston Ship Channel and Katy Hub prices were up nearly a dime.

Already low linepack was getting even lower Wednesday, largely due to repairs and/or maintenance at two compressor stations, Kern River said. Receipts into the pipe were up nearly a dime.

A marketer in the Upper Midwest said current area weather was still pretty mild with overnight lows in the mid 60s. She reported hearing September basis numbers of plus 24 cents for Consumers Energy and plus 25 cents for MichCon, but said her company had not nailed down any baseload deals yet. Current spot purchases remain minimal, the marketer added.

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