The downhill slope for swing prices got a bit steeper Wednesday. Most points recorded losses between 10 and 20 cents, although a few in the San Juan/Rockies market saw smaller declines as high temperatures continued to hit the century mark in much of the interior West.

It was a quiet and rather featureless trading day, a couple of sources said. With tropical storm activity having faded and the screen basically flat with a minuscule gain of less than a penny, trading strategies primarily relied on moderately bearish weather fundamentals, they added. The Northeast and Midwest were already enjoying comfortable highs in the 70s and low 80s, and a cold front was bringing similar conditions to the upper reaches of the South and Midcontinent.

Record-breaking heat continued to sear parts of the West Wednesday, but thunderstorms were due to bring some relief in the Southwest and parts of California.

Chances of an imminent price rebound remained slim and none as quotes again moved lower in late deals. A western marketer bought Northwest domestic gas initially in the high $4.30s but said he was able to pick up a late package for about 15 cents less. Other than that, though, he didn’t see much volatility Wednesday. The marketer noted that domestic gas on Northwest was averaging about 20 cents above Sumas, and attributed some of the Sumas discount to limits on southbound capacity at Northwest’s Chehalis (WA) Station. Not only did Canadian exports at Sumas have to pass Chehalis to reach much of the Pacific Northwest market, but the pipeline’s Jackson Prairie storage facility is also downstream of Chehalis, he pointed out.

“There’s nothing going on in the East,” said a Northeast trader. A few people in short supply positions are still buying, he said, but other than that almost no incremental demand can be found. That was reflected in weak NEPOOL (New England) electricity prices, he added.

With market activity on the slow side, the storage report due Thursday morning was in the thoughts of many traders. “Our guys are predicting an 80 Bcf injection.” said a Midcontinent marketer. “This is one of the lowest EIA estimates we have seen for a while, but I’m not worried. We only need to average 71 Bcf [per week] for the remainder of the injections to get to 3 Tcf come withdrawal season. It would take some major heat for us to get short of that mark, and right now there just isn’t much heat to speak of.”

An eastern utility buyer said he was hearing some bidweek discussion, “but there’s nothing solid there yet. However, with these weak demand fundamentals, I’m not too worried about going into August short.”

Despite generally diminished concern about former Tropical Depression Six, Weather 2000 said not to count it out entirely yet. The depression, “which briefly obtained tropical storm strength and should have been named Erika, has recently sustained disruptive damage from Hispaniola,” the consulting firm said. “Historically these Greater Antilles make it very troublesome for tropical systems to traverse, and most do not survive. We still advise keeping an eye on this system (as it is still progressing in the general direction of the Gulf mouth), and would require little impetus (away from terrain, that is) to regenerate. Similarly, we are still monitoring (for potential regeneration) former Hurricane Danny in the central Atlantic moving westward.”

Turning to the general weather outlook, Weather 2000 said, “Government, models and our analyses in good agreement for [the] overall pattern for [the] contiguous 48 states. Almost as straightforward as slicing the nation in half to depict warm versus cool anomalies. Overall patterns of May, June and July show no signs of reversing for August, which remains consistent with our previous summer ’03 outlooks (no adjustments needed).”

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