The downhill slope for end-of-January swing prices Tuesday wasabout as slippery as any of the icy roads in parts of the Midwestand Northeast. Despite such conditions that normally would helpprop up gas prices, it was a rare point failing to drop less than50 cents, and most of the declines ranged from 70 to 90 cents.

As often happens, California was a rather schizophrenic market.The PG&E citygate managed the day’s only gain (a small one),while the Southern California border far outpaced falling pointswith a drop exceeding $2. Many marketing companies remain hesitantto sell gas to California utilities, a staffer at one such firmsaid. However, he saw both Malin and the citygate bounce higherlate in the morning. Another trader said Malin prices had slippedbeneath $8 before a few people got caught short in the late going,”and I was happy to sell to one of them” for $8.60 near the end oftrading.

A Midwestern marketer thought it might be shocking to some howquickly prices were coming down after the record-settingperformances of 2000, “but it [price decline] still isn’t fastenough for a lot of us.”

But another source decided to act the contrarian: “Well, sinceeverybody is saying that it’s going down, that there’s nothingreally to keep prices up, [I predict] it’s going up likegangbusters [today]. Mark my words.”

A couple of traders expressed surprise at how quiet Tuesday’sactivity was for being so close to winding up bidweek. “People didthings and got out quickly,” a producer said. He and others hadfewer baseload deals than usual to report. A lot of people aregoing to test the swing waters of the aftermarket, the producersaid.

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