Thursday’s trading for end-of-March flows was a near-repeat of the day before — generally modest price movement both up and down, with South and East Texas joining Northeast citygates in seeing much of the softening and gains being recorded at almost all points in the Midcontinent and West.
All of the double-digit advances Thursday occurred in the West and at several Midcontinent points; overall increases ranged from a little less than a nickel to nearly a quarter. There were several flat points in the Gulf Coast and Dominion in Appalachia to go along with declines that ran as large as a dime.
Cash quotes had a smidgen of previous-day screen backing, but heating load continued to diminish. The West has virtually cornered the market on any remaining substantive cold weather, with snow predicted Friday and continuing into the weekend in several of the region’s mountainous areas. Otherwise, there is precious little of the U.S. where spring has not established itself solidly as the prevailing season.
It’s actually beginning to feel a bit summery in parts of the South where highs are expected to be in the 80s for the next several days. Few can resist running their air conditioners in that kind of warmth, so rising power generation demand likely is preventing greater softness in the cash market.
What may be the last triple-digit weekly storage withdrawal before next winter got an initial bullish reaction at Nymex. The Energy Information Administration came in near the high end of prior expectations that centered on the 80s Bcf in estimating a pull of 104 Bcf for the week ending March 24. But following a 16-cent screen jump immediately after release of the report, reactions became more tempered and the May contract eventually settled up 3.1 cents. The Producing region broke its string of three small net injections in prior March reports by pulling 21 Bcf from the ground last week.
A Northeast utility buyer said his city has been relatively warm in the mid 60s recently. The region will get cooler again during the weekend but not by much, he said. Weekend highs are expected to drop into the 50s.
The buyer commented that there shouldn’t have been any surprise about how large the storage draw was. Not only was cold weather occupying much of the U.S. during the week in questions, but many people were pushing to meet storage cycling requirements by the end of the month, he said.
The utility had already finished its bidweek business by Thursday, the buyer continued. April marks “pretty much the first time” the company has bought any substantial monthly baseload gas since winter term deals kicked in last fall, he said. He had been turning back discretionary supplies for much of the winter, but said he probably won’t be doing that in April. He also expected to be buying more day-to-day supplies.
A Midwest-based industrial end-user who buys gas for plants in various parts of the U.S. and Canada said it “felt really good to have supply coming to me” instead of having to go out and chase it. He explained that it seemed as if more suppliers were actively initiating bidweek trade talks instead of waiting to be called than in the past few months. That was especially so on Southern Natural Gas, which had returned to pre-Hurricane Katrina throughput levels during March, he said. He quoted basis at minus a penny for Southern.
The end-user said he is relishing the end of winter cold. “It was 65 degrees here at lunchtime. I rolled down my car window to enjoy the drive,” he said.
Going by the April futures settlement at $7.233 Wednesday and comparing it to the March contract going off the board at $7.112, one might expect to see modest month-over-month increases in indexes. However, that assumption would face complications at some points where basis saw wild gyrations, particularly at the Chicago citygate. Chicago basis was very weak as bidweek began and got much weaker, said the end-user, who reported the citygate trading at minus 40 cents Monday, minus 62 cents Tuesday and as low as minus 73 cents Wednesday.
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