Despite overall warming trends, prices were mostly near flat but higher at a majority of points Wednesday as heating load continued to rise in a few areas. The previous day’s 3.7-cent gain by May futures had a small bullish effect on the cash market.

Most points were flat to up a little more than 30 cents, but excluding Carthage and NGPL-TexOk, the largest gain was about 15 cents. Losses ranged from a couple of pennies to about 15 cents.

After a couple of days of small futures gains, Thursday’s cash market will have negative screen guidance after the May natural gas contract fell 8.1 cents Wednesday amid overall weakness in Nymex’s energy complex (see related story).

Heating load was due to rise a bit Thursday in the Midcontinent, but seasonal chilly temperatures would barely budge in the Midwest and Northeast. Meanwhile, warmer conditions were predicted in the South and Rockies.

Because overall weather fundamentals were on the bearish side, a Midcontinent producer said he suspected that traders making up low imbalances going into the start of April were responsible for Wednesday’s majority price gains. Temperatures were getting a bit colder in his region, he said, but it was “not that big a deal.”

The National Weather Service (NWS) predicts below-normal temperatures during the April 6-10 workweek throughout the West south of a line extending westward from central Oregon through the southern edge of Montana. The below-normal forecast continues into the southern Plains, Midcontinent and northwestern quadrant of the South through the Lower Midwest and the southwestern portion of the Midwest. NWS expects above-normal readings only in Maine and the Florida peninsula.

Although the Energy Information Administration indicated that net storage injections began ahead of the expected schedule during the week ending March 20, Cameron Horwitz of SunTrust Robinson Humphrey said he expects a withdrawal of 2 Bcf to be reported for the week ending March 27.

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